Five students from LSAD finalists in Young Designer of the Year 2017

Ríon Hannora O’Donovan
Kate O'Doherty - Look 5 - 01

One of Kate O’ Doherty’s looks.

Five past and present students from Limerick School of Art & Design (LSAD) have made it to Dublin Fashion Festival’s Young Designer of the Year final 2017.

These women make up almost half of the 12 finalists that will be taking part in a catwalk show in the Round Room in the Mansion House this Friday, September 22nd. Along with the title, the winner will get the chance to shoot a fashion portfolio with Barry McCall, who is one of Ireland’s most influential photographers.

This years’ finalists from LSAD include Gráinne Wilson, Ríon Hannora O’Donovan, Kate O’Doherty, Aoife Eustace Doyle and Mairead Dore.

Gráinne Wilson is 23 years old and comes from county Tipperary. She will be graduating from LSAD with a first class BA honours degree in Fashion Design in November 2017. Story-telling and performing arts have been interests of hers from a young age, and as a child she remembers, “digging through the wooden chest I kept filled with unusual items of clothing, headdresses and exotic pieces of fabric, and inventing characters and stories around these,”.

Grainne Wilson (1)

Piece from Grainne Wilson.

She became interested in the world of fashion during her mid-teens, having won the first nationwide Junk Kouture Recycled Fashion competition. Before this competition, she had become increasingly concerned by the toll that the fashion and textile industry was taking on the environment, and questioned the ethics surrounding garment production.

In Gráinne’s third year of University, she interned with fashion designers Martina Spetlova in London and Manish Arora in Delhi. It was in India that she encountered the Hijra people, the country’s community of transgender women, who inspired her graduate collection:

“I was intrigued by their hyper-feminine identities and how they were simultaneously shunned and accepted for centuries in a country that normally has quite conservative gender norms. They are believed to be vehicles of the goddess Buhuchara Mata’s divine power, and are called upon to perform ritualistic dances and songs at celebrations and festivals. I was captivated by their shamelessness in their hyper-feminine identities, despite the fact that they hold such a precarious position on the outskirts of society.”

Ceremony Coat Front

Ceremony Coat from Grainne Wilson’s piece.

Speaking about how she incorporated this into her designs, she said, “Curved seams act as hyperbole of the female form, whilst asymmetric shapes and abrupt terminations reflect the feeling of unbalance, the weird and the wonderful.”

The look Gráinne entered into the competition is one of the more wearable looks from her graduate collection, known as the Lakshmi look. A hand stitch from Northern India known as ‘kantha’ is used both on the outside of the bomber jacket and on the inside lining, a stitch that Gráinne was keen to use, “It draws attention to that intimate relationship that exists between the maker and the garment, which is very much overlooked in today’s world of fast fashion.”

Ríon Hannora O’Donovan is a 20-year-old student in LSAD, due to graduate in 2019. She comes from Cork City, and her family members have been involved in fashion for generations, “My grandmother and her mother before her are and were amazing dress makers and seamstresses. I was always intrigued and amazed by the possibilities of my grandmother’s talent, as she would casually give me garments she had made for my mother and her siblings.”


Ríon Hannora O’Donovan’s design that she submitted to the competition.

Ríon began experimenting with making her own clothes from a young age, cutting up fabrics to what she thought was the shape of her body, “It rarely worked out, but the odd time it did I felt absolutely invincible.”

When it came to deciding which subject she wanted to study during her time in Art College, Ríon narrowed it down to ceramics, sculpture and of course, fashion. It was after making the realisation that fashion was the one she got up at 7am for, and stayed in college until the cleaners would have to kick her out because it was dark outside, that she knew fashion design was the course for her.

The piece Ríon submitted to the competition was inspired by sculptural pieces by Eva Fàbregas, based on the idea of furniture coming alive and how they nearly have a mind of their own in this day and age, “Although you control its final destination, you have no idea what it has gone through to get to your door step”.

Speaking about her design, which has three triangular boxes on the lower half, filled completely with polystyrene beads, she said, “The beads move as the wearer moves but you do not have complete control over how they move or where they go in the box. Just like the flat packed IKEA shelves that arrive at your door step.”


Ríon Hannora O’Donovan narrowed it down to ceramics, sculpture and of course, fashion.

Ríon tries to be as environmentally friendly as she can with her designs, and puts a little bit of herself into everything that she makes, “They are personal to me, and by putting my designs out there in the world a small piece of myself goes with them.”

Kate O’Doherty is a 22-year-old woman from Ardagh, county Limerick. She will be graduating from LSAD this year in November with a BA first-class honours Degree in Fashion Design.

Kate’s inspiration for her final year collection came from the photographer Jean Paul Bourdier, after a classmate introduced her to his work. The piece she submitted to the competition was part of her final collection:


Kate O’ Doherty’s submittion.

“The concept behind the collection is to explore the connection between the human body and our detachment from the natural environment. I aim to capture the tension between humans need to ultimately control, and our basic human instinct to connect with our natural environment. Fluid lines merged with contrasting forms act in creating a sense of connectedness with nature.”

Unlike many others, Kate is planning to stay in Ireland, as she feels there is a wonderful platform for emerging artists here, “I am inspired by the craftsmanship all over Ireland. It’s something I would love to incorporate within my own designs, ‘the future is handmade’.”

Limerick Voice wish all five women the best of luck on Friday, where hopefully one will be crowned the winner of Young Designer of the Year 2017.

image of fashion

Ríon Hannora O’Donovan

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