Robyn Lynch is the latest designer to join the Fashion East line-up
Fashion East newcomer Robyn Lynch makes Irish clothes. The country’s rich heritage is woven into everything she creates, with her recent graduate collection inspired by old photos of her dad and his friends, and imagery she found in the depths of the RTE (Ireland’s version of the BBC) archives, as taken from news articles and coverage of sports matches.
The resulting offering, which was presented as part of the Westminster Menswear MA show in June, is an unmistakable ode to Lynch’s homeland. Garments crafted in green, white and orange assemble to form the Irish flag and traditional cable knits bring to mind those worn by farmers, while sportier technical styles including football shorts and baseball caps are all lifted from the streets of present-day Dublin – a stand-out jumper is spliced with a tracksuit top, for example, which perfectly demonstrates the blend between he traditional and the contemporary that defines Lynch’s aesthetic.
Having grown up in Malahide, a coastal town near Dublin, Lynch studied Printed Textiles at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design and had her mind set on a career as a designer from a young age. Making the move to London, the emerging designer balanced stints interning with Phoebe English and Cottweiler – two brands with a wildly different viewpoints – with her MA studies. And now, fresh from university, the young creative joins Stefan Cooke and Mowalola Ogunlesi as the latest addition to the Fashion East line-up.
Due to make her runway debut in January, we caught up with Lynch to talk what Ireland means to her, her approach to dressing men, and what she has planned for her first LFW show.
How does your identity as an Irish person factor into your designs?
Robyn Lynch: I think my Irishness factors in greatly. My heritage has been the starting point for almost all of my projects and is something I’m always interested in. From early on as a designer, I’ve used the RTE archives and I also look back at family photographs and study Irish photographers. All my research comes from the Irish people.
Robyn Lynch: I’m a huge fan of all of these designers and to be grouped together with them is something I could only have dreamed of. They’re doing amazing things, but I think there is a slight gap when it comes to Irish representation in the menswear market; it will be great to shine a light and celebrate Ireland’s heritage more within men’s fashion.
How was the news that you’d joined the Fashion East line-up received by the Irish people you know?
Robyn Lynch: One thing that I’ve found since the news broke about Fashion East, is the support of fellow Irish people in other creative fields, not just fashion, who have reached out to express their well wishes and show an interest in working together. I think this really demonstrative of the Irish spirit: you are never too far from a helping hand.
What are your thoughts on Ireland’s relationship with fashion?
Robyn Lynch: We have some amazing universities developing great talent, but I’ve found that there simply isn't the same level of support and interest in helping young designers post-university as there is in London. There are platforms like the ones in London, such as The Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, but they all seem to be aimed towards craft-based design. Job opportunities follow a similar pattern as there are only a handful of design houses based in Dublin and I never felt that these would compliment my style of work effectively enough.
How did working with a menswear label like Cottweiler impact your own practice?
Robyn Lynch: I was a huge fan of Cottweiler for a long time before having the opportunity to intern with them. I think the influence they had on my work was in becoming more aware of the customer at the end of the design process. Their customer is so clearly identifiable, and gaining an understanding of this really helped me to visualise who I was designing for.
You use traditional materials in an innovative way. Can you talk us through some of your processes?
Robyn Lynch: I think my specific craft comes through in dying and mixing colours to try and turn the knits into something more contemporary, I spend hours in the dye lab with my calculator getting the percentage of mixes just right and finding the correct tone. I think as a designer it’s important to keep up this element of craft as much as possible, because you can suddenly find your time dominated by the computer.
Your silhouettes and some of your technical wear alludes to so-called ‘tough guys’, but when paired with soft cable knits they evoke a very different and unique masculinity. What is your approach to dressing men?
Robyn Lynch: I try to approach male dressing in a very straightforward way. I always design in full looks instead of in pieces: I envision the whole outfit first and then design the details into each garment. I think this approach to designing comes from looking at footage from the RTE archives. I’ll take inspiration from how a certain man in a video is dressed, but also how he carries himself and how the jacket falls off his shoulders, even down to how he has his shoes tied. Every aspect of the character comes into the design process, I want my collection to look like a snapshot into his wardrobe. I think this is something that is important to me – for it to have a sense of reality.
What have you got planned for your first show with Fashion East?
Robyn Lynch: There’s a great sense of freedom at the moment. It’s the first time I’ll get to be involved in the casting process, an element I’m really looking forward to as I think casting is as important as the clothes. Most importantly I’m developing the silhouette and proportions, and looking to introduce some new knit and sportswear hybrid pieces. Watch this space.