We are Islanders | Irish Design

We are Islanders | Marie Varley’s Design Column

Irish Artist Marie Varley searches the country for the very best in Irish design to bring to you here on HeadStuff. This week she talks to Rosie O’Reilly from We are Islanders.

We Are Islanders is an art and contemporary fashion house based in Dublin. The team create ready to wear womenswear and lifestyle products, utilising luxurious fabrics from Ireland and abroad to create collections imbued with detail and depth. Their work merges artistic exploration and processes with form and silhouette to express reflections on identity and stories of cultural influence. This week I caught up with their creative director and founder Rosie O’ Reilly.

We are Islanders | Irish Design headstuff.org

Can you tell me a little about your background and how We Are Islanders began?
My background is philosophy and sociology, from there I moved into fashion design and as a result of the former I had a huge awareness of the ethical implications of the industry when I began my research. I founded the label in 2012 and Dee and Kate joined soon after. The name came from many moments looking out to the Irish Sea. The metaphorical landscape of an island is the backbone and vision for the label. Always ask questions about what’s beyond your view point and what’s in front of you.
Your work blurs the lines between fashion design and visual art. When starting off on a project, do you approach it from a fine art or a design perspective?
The label is ‘art lead’, which means that the creative process behind We Are Islanders goes beyond just the design and production of clothes. I explore alternative media in art and culture, which in turn inspires the stories behind each collection. Each collection has been a continuing exploration of the TIDAL series – exploring our relationship with our environment and how it shapes our identity. In September 2013 I designed and executed an artistic installation titled ‘4/704’ for Dublin Fringe. Using 3 dye vats, which suspended fabric over natural dye, and used the buoyancy of the high tide to physically transfer the tidelines on to the fabric, thus creating what was termed ‘textural time-lapse’.

We are Islanders | Irish Design headstuff.org

The 4/704 project explored the idea that fashion can be an experience that transcends the medium of clothing. How and why is it important to you to communicate this message using various art forms?Given the times we are living through and the scale of the environmental and social issues we face it is important that artistic expression asks big questions. We are Islanders uses clothing to express some of these artistic stories.
We are Islanders | Irish Design headstuff.org
We are Islanders | 4/704 Project
Why do you feel that it is important to utilise Irish craft and craftspeople in your projects?
Irish textile work is some of the highest standard in the world. It is a choice based on quality as well as sustainability.
We are Islanders | Irish Design headstuff.org
We are Islanders | Irish Design
How do you feel about the Irish design scene? Do you feel there is a collaborative, inclusive spirit?
It’s a hugely supportive and collaborative space to be in. In clothing design and production the challenges are never the collaborations or the support it’s the lack of support for infrastructure here that’s frustrating. 
Can you tell me about the new collection for SS16?
The collection is called the Journey to Hy-Brasil, Hy-Brazil is the name of a mythical Atlantean island long embedded in maritime legends, shanties and cartographical seascapes; Irish myths described this apparent nautical anomaly, as cloaked in mist except for one day every seven years, when it became visible but still could not be reached. This collection is a celebration of the pioneering spirit. Pieces are hand painted in free form so that garments are individual.
We are Islanders | Irish Design headstuff.org
We are Islanders | Irish Design
What is next for We Are Islanders?
We’re launching a/w16 in the next few weeks and excited to collaborate with a couple of different people on this. I worked on an incredible video for this with Fergal Brennan and Harriet Bruce. It’s journey tale which you can see here https://vimeo.com/156957109
 Instagram: @weareislanders
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