Irish colour talent on show again

Students from Ireland once again demonstrated outstanding talent at the Irish heat of the SDC International Design Competition. Hosted by the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin, we welcomed students from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, Belfast Met, University of Ulster and NCAD for a day of keynote presentations and competition judging.

Judith Neilly

Judith Neilly

The first speaker was Judith Neilly whose wide ranging roles include John England (high fashion, theatrical and interior fabrics), Fergusons (fine dining and soft furnishings), Brownlow (traditional giftwear) and Franklins (labels, embroidery and badges). Judith said she has employed previous entrants from the design competition and offered placements, so the opportunity was there for the right person.

Judith had a number of key messages:

  • You’re an artist if you design something for yourself. You’re a designer if you design something to meet the brief.
  • Make it fit for purpose.
  • Expect restrictions and design round them. Use space wisely.
  • Research is key – 15 minutes of historical research is never a waste of time.
  • Use the classics, but be sure to update them.
  • Do your research and select your colour palette well in advance.
  • Colour is vital, and often the accent colours are the most important.

Judith’s talk focused on her extensive work in film and television, designing the fabrics for costumes, working to specific briefs and often to very tight deadlines. This was a ‘who’s who’ of recent blockbusters and has included work on Game of Thrones, Into the Woods and Pirates of the Caribbean, and was accompanied by samples of her work, including the fabric produced for Sirius Black’s trousers in the Harry Potter films.

One of the unique features of film costumes is that often they don’t need to last long, unlike the clothes we buy in the shops. Judith also talked about the use of colour to age a fabric in In the Heart of the Sea, and how colour and fabric were used to age a character in Game of Thrones.

She finished by emphasising that whilst we may not be able to compete with the mass manufacturing of garments that takes place in Asia, we can compete on design excellence.

Janet Best

Janet Best

The second speaker was SDC member Janet Best, who is a fashion colour management specialist. Janet said that 80% of sustainability is set at the design stage. She talked through some of the common problems experienced in achieving the colour you want and gave an insight into the colour management process throughout the supply chain. Factors which impact on time, quality and cost include lab dips, unreliable colour standards, human factors, poor process control (a lack of systems and procedures) and difficulties with suppliers. She said the first victim of fast fashion is often quality.

Janet illustrated her talk with the example of ‘that dress’ to demonstrate that people see colour differently. She gave examples of some of the different factors that can affect colour perception, from the way your brain works to your age.

Ireland has an impressive record in the SDC International Design Competition, and we welcomed the three most recent global winners, who gave short presentations on their experience of the competition and how it has impacted on their careers.

Rachel White won the competition in 2013 and is now a freelance designer and art educator. She said the competition theme was always forward thinking and industry focused. Following her win, she undertook a diploma in art education, partly paid for by her competition prize money. She highlighted how her win had given her a ‘stamp of approval’, and this, along with the press coverage it generated, had helped her to get a number of roles including her first full-time design job at Styletex in Dublin. Styletex design and manufacture ladies fashion garments for numerous UK, Irish and online retailers.

Orla McCarthy was the winner in 2014. Following her win she had a nine month internship at Dunnes Stores in the homeware department, giving her invaluable commercial experience. She has since worked on a freelance basis for Emblem Weavers in Wexford, and has recently returned from exhibiting at Premiere Vision in Paris. Emblem are a high end linen weaving company, working with leading brands in the luxury goods and high fashion sector. Orla is keen to work as a freelance designer in future.

The most recent winner was Aoife Mullane, who won the competition in November 2015. Aoife received incredible press coverage following her win, including a feature on Nationwide television programme and the front cover of the Irish Sunday Times. Recently she has been working hard to establish her own textiles brand.

Fiona White with Andrew Campbell and Rachel Tuffy from NCAD

Fiona White with Andrew Campbell and Rachel Tuffy from NCAD

The announcements were then made of the winner of the competition. The judges commented on the outstanding standard of work overall.

Congratulations to the winner, Fiona White from NCAD. Fiona goes forward to represent Ireland at the grand final to be held in Shanghai in November.

Congratulations also to the runners up, Matthew Lenehan from Belfast Met and Grace Lavin from Galway Mayo. A special commendation went to Megan Lee from NCAD.

Thanks to Judith Neilly and Janet Best, to our previous winners, to Rachel Tuffy and Andrew Campbell at NCAD for hosting the event and for their warm welcome. Thanks also to Paul Santokhi from SDC’s Ireland region for organising the event. Last but not least, thanks to all the students and colleges who took part.

Details of the SDC International Design Competition are available on the SDC website.

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