Monday 12th August

| BY Isabella Davey

Ten Meets Roísín Pierce, The Irish Designer Mentored by Chanel’s Atelier

Photographed by Andrew Nuding and styled by Kieran Kilgallon

The Irish Magdalene laundries – a Catholic institution for women who gave birth out of wedlock and were forced to labour as atonement for their sins. It’s an unlikely place to connect to Chanel, but it was the emerging Irish designer Róisín Pierce who tied her collection Mná i Bhláth to this specific moment in Irish history. Her poetic take on these gruesome past times won her the first ever Chanel Métiers d’Art Prize at this year’s Hyères Festival in France.

Having been a partner of the Hyères festival since 2014, this year was the first time Chanel instigated a designer initiative, which saw the fashion house select 10 finalists and pair them with 10 of their specialist Ateliers, inclusive of Desrues button makers, milliner Maison Michel, Goossens jeweller, embroiderer Michel Lésage, and bootmaker Massaro. The pairing process was done by matching the finalists’ birthdates to the dates each Atelier started working with Chanel. Having acquired these arts and crafts artisans due to their association with haute couture and traditional craftsmanship, Róisín was assigned the renowned milliners Maison Michel.

Photographed by Nicholas Quinn, hair by Angela Doyle, modelled by Mia Sweeney

The judging panel led by the Chloé’s creative lead Natacha Ramsay-Levi decided that Róisín’s soft-sculptures created with the milliner best represented the idea of this creative coming-together. Experience and expertise met booming, unadulterated creativity, and won the Irish designer a €20,000 bursary, a year-long collaboration with Chanel, and the bragging rights to be the first ever winner of the category.

Through her primary focus on material and texture (stemming from a textiles degree at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin), Roísín links her historical references, interests, and her past to the material. She defines her creations as soft sculptures in their biomorphic forms. Her combination of textiles and sculpture come with techniques of smocking, broderie anglaise and floral scalloped crochet, pulling the focus on surface texture and the handcrafted form: Róisín has only ever worked in white to emphasise this surface manipulation.

Ireland’s historical roots are deep within her work, surmising the country as an inspirational place and one that is integral to her practice. The combination of spirituality, religion and the past are sewn into her sculptural forms: the use of fabric techniques further reflects the dresses women in the Magdalene laundries were forced to make as repentance for sins – communion, wedding and baptism frocks.

Photographed by Nicholas Quinn, hair by Angela Doyle, modelled by Mia Sweeney

How does she construct these natural and handmade forms? “I don’t usually draw finished looks, mostly just quick sketches at the outset. My designs are usually created through the sampling process and through making. I see responses to fabric which gets me thinking of how to further develop each piece. It’s quite an organic process and the form often is not established until quite far into the making process. When you are collaborating with other designers of course you have to approach the design process a bit differently. You really have to be able to express your ideas accurately and efficiently. While working with Maison Michel, I knew nothing was beyond the realms of possibility in terms of construction. I modelled the hats using 3-D modelling software. These models were used to produce a set of drawings which was a completely new approach that proved to be really useful. The flower hat looks as if it was 3D-printed, which is a credit to the amazing team at Maison Michel.” Excited to work further with the Central Saint Martins grad at the helm of Maison Michel, Priscilla Royer, plans to further explore soft sculpture flowers will see an elegant progression in Róisín’s style. Róisín’s creations are soft, considered and quiet – more than an ounce of the characteristics defined to couture, and of course Chanel’s elegant approach.

With change comes progress, and with new visions come greater horizons. Coco Chanel notably concurred, “I want to be part of what’s happening”. This new Métiers d’Art prize signals a manoeuvre in the fashion house to further enforce its support of the new waves breaking through. Róisín’s year-long mentorship under Chanel will culminate in a showcase of craftsmanship meeting the new vanguard with Roisin creating a piece to be exhibited next year at Hyères. Going off those whipped cream headdresses and ruching, smocking and crochet, we look forward to see where Roisin can take her approach under Chanel’s mentorship and incomparable opportunity: here’s to 2020 at Hyères.


Photographed by Nicholas Quinn, hair by Angela Doyle, modelled by Mia Sweeney