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November 22, 2017
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A/W 2012-13 looks from the shops of the Creative Quarter were presented at a fashion show during the Dublin Fashion Festival. Photograph by Briana Palma.

As New York kicked off its high-powered fashion week, across the Atlantic, Dublin was also celebrating style. The third annual Dublin Fashion Festival got underway on Thursday September 6, bringing fashion to the streets and shops of the Irish capital. Unlike a traditional fashion week, though, the festival was, sartorially speaking, living in the moment; rather than forecasting next season's looks, it highlighted the trends for the upcoming A/W 2012-13 season. 

Garments from designer Amy Winters'
Structural Colour collection were on
display at luxury department store Brown
Thomas as part of the Irish Designers
CREATE pop-up shop.
Photograph by Briana Palma.

The festival, which ran for four days and concluded on Sunday, is an initiative of Dublin City BID (Business Improvement District). The four-year-old not-for-profit represents thousands of businesses and aims "to position Dublin City Centre as the location of choice for retail, leisure and business activity." In addition to the yearly Fashion Festival, the organisation's projects include the Dine in Dublin Restaurant Week and NYE Dublin New Year's festival.

This year's edition of the Dublin Fashion Festival ran the gamut from high-end to the High Street. The official programme featured a range of events, such as on-the-street runway shows, workshops and a walking tour of unique-to-Dublin shops, while local businesses added to the festivities with showcases of Irish designers, special discounts and more. 

The festival's marquee event was Friday evening's Creative Quarter Fashion Show at the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, an 18th century Georgian building that serves as a shopping centre and home to some of Dublin's most unique fashion businesses. For the event, the building's stone steps were transformed into a catwalk as male and female models put on display the A/W 2012-13 looks available in the shops of the Creative Quarter neighbourhood. A large crowd amassed to watch the energetic and eclectic show, which saw local boutiques like Project51 come together with international brands sold in the neighbourhood, such as French Connection.  

Other high-fashion elements of the festival occurred around the corner from the Powerscourt Centre at department store Brown Thomas. The store, which carries luxury fashion, accessories and homewares, served as the official host of Fashion's Night Out, which took place on the inaugural day of the festival. 

What I like about the festival is that there are so many different people and they have lots of different voices. They've chosen such a cross-section; it's a good representative of the fashion industry here.

Getting its festivities underway more than a week early, Brown Thomas hosted the Irish Designers CREATE pop-up shop from August 28 through the duration of the Fashion Festival. The showcase invited 10 new and established designers to display and sell their work in Brown Thomas, while also giving them the opportunity to meet customers and get feedback. 

One participating designer was Amy Winters, who uses science and technology to create interactive fashion for her label, Rainbow Winters. At Brown Thomas, Winters displayed looks from her latest collection, Structural Colour. She explains that inspiration for the colourful collection came from both oil slicks and the sea. 

Winters, who is based in London and launched her first ready-to-wear collection in September 2010, found plenty to be gained by her experience with CREATE and the Dublin Fashion Festival. "It's the first time for a lot of us to be in a department store and to have the response of Brown Thomas' customer[s], to see what they think and learn the retail environment at this level," she says. "From my point of view, [the Brown Thomas customer] is usually a little bit older, which is great because they're the customer that has the money to pay. So for me it was about learning tweaks, like extending my dresses by a few centimetres."

Though the Dublin Fashion Festival featured elaborate runway shows and luxury garments, it was also very accessible to the general public and offered experiences for both the fashion-forward crowd and the average consumer. One event that drew a diverse group of tourists and locals - although all were women - was the Le Cool Experience walking tour. Le Cool, a digital weekly that covers culture and events in the city, regularly offers such tours, highlighting what's happening in Dublin at the moment. 

Irene O'Brien (right) brought her Le Cool
tour group into Bow, where they
learned about the store from co-owner
and jewellery designer, Margaret O'Rourke.
Photograph by Briana Palma.

In conjunction with the festival, stylist and tour guide Irene O'Brien led a walk on Saturday, taking participants to six fashion-focused establishments, some brand new and others with long histories. On the tour, the group of about 15 had the unique opportunity to learn the back-stories of the shops through short talks with their owners and managers. 

For example, at menswear boutique Indigo & Cloth, owner Garrett Pitcher discussed the agency he runs in the back of his store and his desire to "challenge the current retail landscape" with exciting projects. Then at 30-year-old vintage store Jenny Vander - which O'Brien proudly proclaimed as her favourite shop in Dublin - manager Marion O'Sullivan recalled her surprise the first time Debbie Harry of Blondie dropped in. 

Over the course of the four-day festival, the general public were also invited to participate in a series of workshops with local stylists and experts, such as Debbie O'Donnell. As the executive producer of Ireland's fashion and entertainment television programme Xposé, O'Donnell is immersed in the fashion industry and is constantly sharing its stories with her audience. On Thursday and Friday, she presented four master classes, during which she discussed how to apply catwalk trends like peplums, statement shoulders and optical illusions to everyday life. She also gave examples from High Street brands, such as Mango and Karen Millen

TV producer Debbie O'Donnell (left)
explained how to bring looks
from the runway into everyday life
in a series of master classes presented
as part of the Dublin Fashion Festival.
Photograph by Briana Palma.

O'Donnell, who is a working mother, felt it was important to present a class for the average Irish woman, who she says is the target audience for Xposé. "I would like to give people practical tips that might actually change or help their life, not something that is so obscure that it means nothing to them," she says. "I think high fashion is very important, but I think it can be interpreted for the average woman as well."

As a fan of fashion, O'Donnell also expressed her excitement about presenting at the festival, a first for her. "I love it," she says, smiling. "I support anything that is going to help the fashion industry in Ireland, which I'm a big campaigner for. … What I like about the festival is that there are so many different people and they have lots of different voices. They've chosen such a cross-section; it's a good representative of the fashion industry here. I'm really behind it and I think it's really exciting to be part of it."

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