We Are Islanders: The Global Luxury, Art and Fashion Brand
The relation between geography and fashion is intertwined. Growing up someplace leads to a form of creativity that melds culture and landscape. This is certainly true for We are Islanders, an art and fashion house in Ireland founded in 2012 by Rosie O’Reilly (Creative Director ), Kate Nolan (Production and Operations Director) and Deirdre Hynds (Communications Director).
As a global luxury, art and fashion brand, We Are Islanders is dedicated to the development of aesthetically inspiring works of wearable art, created to the highest craft standards and within the boundaries of better industry practice. The label uses Irish woven fabrics and supports an indigenous industry that holds and provides immense cultural and social capital to the country. Their first collection was about creating a story – communicating important issues through clothing. It was also about understanding the fabrics available at home and abroad that upheld the principles of better practice, craft and innovation that the founders believed live up to the We are Islanders aesthetic. They use Irish textiles that have never been seen before (such as salmon skin leather, which is a by-product from an organic fish farm off the west coast of Ireland) and in ways that are unexpected so it keeps everyone interested and engaged. They are also committed to working in Ireland, to develop relationships with the textile mills and producers around the country to support Irish wool and linen.
Of the name, Creative Director O’Reilly shares,
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 viewpoint and what’s in front of you. So We Are Islanders works as a conceptual project where I create artwork that responds to these questions and this feeds into the design process.
This is reflected in the brand’s use of ‘beetling’, a traditional process which requires linen to be hammered repeatedly, resulting in a waxy sheen. The linen takes on an inherent rigidity that lends structure to the fabric and is a 250 year old technique that uses absolutely no chemicals. Sourced from linen producers based in the north of Ireland, this technique is incorporated in all of the collections.
When it comes to working with other well known Irish brands, Hynds recounts,
We couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with the Jameson [Irish whiskey] team to highlight the leading figures in Irish Craft. In particular it was a massive bonus to be able to work with Ger Buckley, who is a 5th generation Cooper (a cask maker) with Jameson. Ger gave us a one on one demonstration of working with wood in his workshop, using traditional tools that are over a hundred years old! The print that we produced for the Jameson shirt and shirt dress, is achieved using wooden staves from a cask and analogue screen printing.
The brand will show AW16 in Paris next week and are working on the launch of SS’16, titled “Journey to Hy-Brazil” (Hy-Brasil is a mythical Atlantean Island said to lie off the west coast of Ireland). The SS16 collection is produced using Irish linens, hand painted bamboo silk, salmon leather, organic cotton twills and Muslin and the process used is mainly hand – painted silk where inimitable markings are transferred on to silks and linens from of a traditional Irish wooden boat called a ‘currach’.