HomeFashionGlass Runway: Fashion show launched dedicated to addressing gender inequality, diversity, and...

Glass Runway: Fashion show launched dedicated to addressing gender inequality, diversity, and inclusion in NI

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Held at The MAC Belfast on Tuesday, a live fashion show kicked off the Glass Runway exhibition, which runs from June 6 until July 25 at Belfast’s Craft NI Gallery.

As part of an initiative led by The Council of Irish Fashion Designers and The Glass Society of Ireland, 20 creatives from across Ireland teamed up for the project, including five based in Northern Ireland.

Saintfield based Glass artist, Alison Lowry teamed up with fashion designer Sarah Foy to create this design titled ‘Loach’. PIC BY GLENN NORWOOD

Showcasing glass and fashion, including glass bags, millinery, dresses, and jewellery, the artists used their skills to create and also to question gender bias and champion inclusion.

NI fashion designer Sara O’Neill, founder of the Éadach brand, and whose designs have appeared on the red carpet and winners’ stages at The Oscars, Baftas, IFTAs, Emmys and much more, was the evening’s special guest speaker.

The north coast-based designer reflected on her early desire to move to London for its “creative scene” but grew to appreciate the opportunities in Ireland, adding that “for such a small place we really punch above our weight”.

“London had a hold on me in my teens and twenties,” she said.

Derry-designer, Aoife Harvey collaborated with Dublin based artist Madeleine Hellier to create a ‘Corsuit’.PIC BY GLENN NORWOOD

“After school in the 90s, I would stand in a newsagent in Portstewart, reading all the glossy fashion and music magazines.

“London was the centre of the world in fashion, music, art, and film. There was so much energy and I wanted to be part of it — a world away from the north coast of NI in the 90s”.

She continued: “I realised attending art college in London was out of the question — it just wasn’t affordable. Dublin also had a hold on me, being half Dub myself, it was my second home.

“But the deal was if I went to NCAD, I had to live with my granny and that just wasn’t the student life I’d envisaged.

Artist and Glassblower, Helen Hancock based in Derry, created ‘Ancient Arrivals’. PIC BY GLENN NORWOOD

“So, I went to Ulster University in Belfast. I fell headfirst into the punk scene, it was magic, and I found a great sense of belonging and identity.

“In university, I started off by doing terrible homages to Vivienne Westwood but by the time I finished, I was finding my own style.

“I still planned to move to London when I graduated, but whilst waitressing on Botanic I met a photographer, fell into styling and quickly built up a business”.

The designer added: “Ten years ago, I moved back to the north coast and launched my brand Éadach, celebrating the stories my grandmother told me. Through that, I delved into Irish folklore, mythology and history.

Banbridge glass artist, Maggie Napier created ‘True Colours’. This piece explores themes of identity, self-expression, and tribalism.
Pic by Glenn Norwood

“Seeing the north coast and the landscape with fresh eyes made me reconnect the stories with the place — I realised their importance. I started to explore identity in a different way.

“I had always played with personal identity and image through subculture, fashion, and music but now identity as it relates to place and history, which for much of my life here in NI, had been something you just didn’t talk about”.

The fashion designer said that despite many obstacles to the arts in Northern Ireland “the output here is incredible”.

Belfast-based artist Meadhbh McIlgorm who created ‘Bound to Break’ said: “This initiative is so exciting. It’s a different experience compared to a typical exhibition where work is static in the gallery.

“The best thing about Glass Runway is how unique and innovative it is. It’s so exciting how the work changes and interacts with the environment it’s in — it feels so alive.”

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