Designer Aoife Mc Namara talks about sustainability and rebuilding fashion

When asked what kind of woman she designs for, Limerick fashion designer Aoife Mc Namara could describe herself: “She’s a change maker. She’s a dreamer. She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in.”

“When I think about that design, it’s really how I can empower women to feel like they can really change the world and what they wear.”

Mc Namara started her brand in 2019 and in three short years it has become a staple on red carpets and fashionistas’ must-have lists, and an example of the popularity of a truly sustainable local brand. .

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Photo: Aoife McNamara

Her designs are immediately recognizable, once you get to know the trademarks: the bright pinks and oranges of sunset, the serene blues; structured blazers and Victorian puff sleeves; Irish wool and linen.

Having dressed everyone from Roz Purcell to Suzanne Jackson to Vogue Williams, Mc Namara has made Limerick one of the country’s foremost fashion hubs, if only because of her thatched-roof country atelier in Adare.

It’s a refreshingly unassuming foundation for a young designer who interned with Marc Jacobs in New York and worked her way up through the rungs of the fashion world in Paris, but continues Mc Namara’s true approach to her work. work: sustainability and the natural world.

He recalls realizing that “fashion was the second biggest polluter behind the oil industry, which I never knew about. And I still think a lot of people don’t.”

“I thought: Why do people do this? Why do people wear clothing that is chemically dyed and is it even harmful to the skin? It is harmful to the environment. Why would someone put that on their body? How can you represent something so awful

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“I was upset. I was really upset and pretty angry. But it also inspired me to be the change.”

Mc Namara believes in the “logic of the Earth and not in the logic of growth,” he says. “I’m not looking at margins. I’m looking at, okay, how can we do it better for the planet? But I think in return that’s going to be the choice that consumers will make. And that’s also part of my job.” , is to help educate consumers on why I am charging X amount for my garment.”

Shoppers have become more aware of the environmental cost of their choices, from fast fashion to beauty and even the food we buy. Recent years have seen an increase in interest in greener options, with many striving to buy less and better quality.

Still, there is, says Mc Namara, a “disconnect” between what we should do and what we actually do.

“Sometimes it reminds me of Ryanair and Aer Lingus,” he says. “Everyone loves Aer Lingus, but everyone flies Ryanair. It’s like they love sustainability, but they choose fast fashion. It’s about money. People love the idea, but they’re not saving to invest. They’re like, I want more and more, whereas you need to get our mindset back if we save for this, we’ll have it longer.”

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With her clothes retailing for between €100 and €600, Mc Namara’s clothes are definitely investment pieces, but she is committed to using them to educate her customers as well.

Take for example his latest collection, Season 8 Rewilding, an 11-piece collection inspired by The Burren in Co. Clare and nature’s ability to regenerate, launching on November 10. As one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the country, it is a case study of what happens if we let nature take its course.

“That’s really what got me, it was, wow, this is what nature could be around us. It also left me with a feeling of hope, because if this is the Burren, imagine if we went somewhere else wild, if we left certain areas in parks and rewild cities, what might they look like?

The collection is full of nods to the rich and enchanting environment of the Burren, from the gray of the weathered stone pavements to the handmade wool colored in the hues of the wildflowers found there. Gray Irish tweed is splashed with green, a collaboration with John Hanly Woolen Mills in Tipperary, while one piece, the Wilding dress, is made from ivory cruelty-free pea silk inspired by native Fionnscoth orchids.

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In this sense, it seems that the collection is McNamara’s attempt to rebuild the fashion industry. “I’m really looking forward to going back to that soil-to-soil process and even looking at regenerative agriculture,” she says. “It’s like reconnecting fashion and agriculture, or fashion and nature.

“Using the natural fibers that surround us, which come from the ground, so it came from a sheep in Ireland. This garment needed nature to even make it. So I always try to reconnect all of that in what I do.”

Connecting with the sensory experience of clothing is also important to her, she says. “It’s very important what we put in our bodies. I don’t think many people realize that. It touches your skin. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, which sometimes people can forget about.”