10 Irish fashion designers getting noticed abroad

The Creating and Designing gallery at EPIC tells the stories of influential designers, like Sybil Connolly and Philip Treacy, who began to make their mark on the world of fashion long ago.

Right now, lots of talented Irish designers continue to make an impact internationally. Some have left Ireland to seek out success abroad, while others are attracting attention from their Irish studios.

So, to celebrate #IWD2021, we want to highlight ten Irish women who are gaining global recognition for their work.


1. Laura Weber

In January, Dublin native and NCAD graduate Laura Weber hit the headlines after Dr. Jill Biden wore her work to the US presidential inauguration. Weber embroidered her dress, coat and mask, carefully positioning each stitch, bead and colour. At the request of the first lady, each flower on the dress was designed to represent a different state.

This wasn’t the first time the New York-based designer’s work was seen by millions of people. Over the years, she has also created embellishments for Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Bette Midler and former first lady Michelle Obama. She also made the green sequin dress that Saoirse Ronan wore to the Oscars back in 2016.

Right now, Weber is working on a line of luxury athleisure and face masks.


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2. Hope Macaulay

On the cover of this month’s GQ magazine, tennis champion Naomi Osaka can be seen posing in a chunky knitted cardigan designed by Hope Macaulay.

The young designer, who is from county Antrim, isn’t long out of college but her colourful, handmade knitwear has already become a hit with celebrities like Halsey and the Hadid sisters.

Mcaulay told The Belfast Telegraph that she experimented with knitting in college after her grandmother taught her the basics. Today, all of her clothes are manufactured in Northern Ireland with the help of local seamstresses.


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3. Orlagh McCloskey

Along with Henrietta Rix, Derry native Orlagh McCloskey runs the London-based womenswear label RIXO. Their unique prints have featured in Vogue and Marie Claire. Last month, they also launched their first vintage-inspired bridal collection in front of buyers and the press at London Fashion Week.

To date, their designs have proved popular with celebrities like Holly Willoughby and they can be found at boutiques and department stores dotted around the globe. But having been tipped as ‘ones to watch’ by The Sunday Times just last year, it would appear that the two women behind RIXO are only beginning their upward trajectory in the world of fashion.


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4. Simone Rocha

Over the past decade Dublin-born designer Simone Rocha has been busy establishing her name in fashion. Back in 2010, she launched her graduate collection at the Tate Modern and London Fashion Week. Today, she has stores across London, New York and Hong Kong.

But international recognition of Rocha’s work has hit new highs recently thanks to her collaboration with H&M. She is the first Irish designer to create a collection for the brand.


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5. Katie Ann McGuigan

A few short years ago, Katie Ann McGuigan from Newry received a BA in Fashion Design from the University of Westminster. Since then, she’s been busy gaining experience with big brands, like Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs. A year after graduation, she also launched her own womenswear brand and started showing at London Fashion Week.


6. Fiona O’Neill

Originally from Dalkey in Dublin, Fiona O’Neill has been attracting global attention since finishing college in 2014. Her psychedelic designs have been featured in renowned publications, like Vogue Italia, and at international exhibitions in Sweden and The Netherlands. She’s even been commissioned to design pieces for Icelandic singer Björk, who is known for her distinctive style.

More recently, O’Neill launched her self-named label from her London-based studio. Many of her pieces have accents of Irishness. She told 10 Magazine last year: “My Irish heritage can be recognised in the spirit of the work, with hints of Celtic bold shapes and curves in graphic two-tone prints. It’s… a fresh take on Ireland from a young Irish woman living in London.”

Last year, she created a film that featured as part of an online London Fashion Week and, this year, her mohair pieces were sold on the show’s website.


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7. Sorcha O’Raghallaigh

While working from her London studio, Irish designer Sorcha O’Raghallaigh saw the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kate Moss and Kylie Minogue wear her clothes. But she moved on to Italy where she spent time learning new skills and working with luxury brands like Givenchy.

Now, O’Raghallaigh – who is originally from Birr, Offaly – is back in Ireland where she’s been working with Brown Thomas and attracting the limelight once again. Recently, her designs have been spotted on Laura Whitmore, Maisie Williams, Gabrielle and Years & Years singer Olly Alexander.


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8. Sharon Wauchob

Tyrone native Sharon Wauchob, who’s been building a name for herself since the 90s, has become a staple of the London Fashion Week schedule. 

She learned the ropes in London and Paris, working with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, before setting out on her own path. In 2003, she showed her designs at Paris Fashion Week and, for a few years, she worked with EDUN – the label founded by Bono and Ali Hewson.

In 2016, she left Paris for London where her studio is currently located. Last year, her 2021 Spring/Summer collection was a hit at London Fashion Week, earning her another spread in Vogue and funding from the British Fashion Council to support her work through the pandemic.

Last month, she continued to make waves on the international stage with her latest Autumn/Winter womenswear collection.


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9. Rebecca Devaney

Dublin native Rebecca Devaney is a textile artist living in Paris. After studying textiles at NCAD, she travelled to Mexico on a research grant to study how the locals there use embroidery.

She then went on to Paris to study needlework at the École Lesage. Since finishing her training there, she has spent hundreds of hours working on opulent embellishments for luxury brands like Dior, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. In an interview with RTÉ, she even spoke about working on a beaded coat worth around €100,000.

The pieces she has worked on have been worn by fashion icons like Beyoncé, Kate Moss, Catherine Deneuve and Charlotte Lucy Gainsbourg. 

Although Devaney has to follow the designs set out by the brands she works for, she also finds the time to create her own pieces.


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10. Julie Peelo

For 20 years, Julie Peelo earned her stripes in the world of fashion by working with internationally renowned brands Marni, John Galliano and Diane von Furstenberg.

As she moved around the globe, fashionistas like Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez were spotted wearing bags she had designed. Last year, Peelo launched her own collection of Italian leather bags and accessories from her Dublin-based studio.


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You can check out EPIC’s virtual tour to hear about some of the contributions Irish emigrants have made to design around the world.

Photo: Irish Examiner