The summer months at Dublin boutique Om Diva have beckoned in new opportunity for Irish design. Seeing the decline of the marketplace in Dublin, Om Diva’s response has arrived in the form of a summer residency programme, helping artisans and designers increase visibility.
In an initiative focused on sustainability, owner Ruth Ní Loinsigh has opened up a dedicated space for Irish brands to promote their ethical work practices. Already a champion of Irish designers, Om Diva leads us to the latest crafters with its newest enterprise – and this time with an environmental spin.
The aesthetic appeal of the shop is always substantial, as bejewelled displays and a pastel deluge enhance the senses, but the flutes of prosecco that usher in each new residency are always present to sprinkle some extra glamour onto the occasion. Aisling Duffy opened a pop-up for her two week stay at Om Diva on Thursday evening.
I am always surprised by the size and number of rooms that perforate the corners of the Victorian-era buildings on Drury St, and the exhibition room sprouts in a seemingly non-existent corner. Duffy’s collection fits into it perfectly. In a small room that creates intimacy and proximity, four clothes racks display her wearable design, including bags, t-shirts, coats, skirts and her new print scarf collection. The right corner contains her print collage pillows that are made of her multifarious and colourful designs, while patches litter a table in quirky illustrations.
I work a lot with vintage pieces that I upcycle. I source a lot of 1950s to 1970s types of jackets, and to keep a coherent or fluid running theme, I decorate with my patches
I find Duffy behind the door as I walk in. Her candy-pink hair bobs out to reveal an enquiring gaze. At 5.29pm, I am one minute early for the opening. She lets me in and talks to me a little about her background. Currently based in London, she operates from a studio in Holborn, “but I grew up in Ireland, in Dublin, and I’m trying to do a lot more shows in Ireland. I’ve been getting some good attention here”. Duffy graduated from NCAD in 2011 and remembers Om Diva when it was still in George’s Arcade. She then moved to Edinburgh to continue her studies in printed textiles. “When I left Ruth was taking on graduate collections and starting to show them. To see Om Diva develop the way it has, has been amazing. They are just promoting so many Irish designers. It’s incredible.”
When Duffy saw Om Diva’s residency programme advertised, she started working towards it. “I’m still quite young in business”, she says, and as a creative person, she appreciates deadlines to keep her aware of time frames. After working in print design for fashion brands, Duffy decided to start out on her own. She spent a year learning about pattern designing and cutting, got an award for two years for studio space at Cockpit Studios and launched in late 2017.
Duffy’s design is distinctive. Faye Power, who works at Om Diva, is wearing her white slip skirt at the opening, a mid-length piece with Duffy’s signature print design patches. Both wearable and unique, Power loves the “wow factor” of Duffy’s designs. Self-described as a mix of fairytale and fatal elements, there is also a musical influence in Duffy’s work. “I am drawing from my roots”, she says, quoting punk music and DIY creations from her teenage years: “My work is so much to do with storytelling and identity.”
What’s nice about working with vintage is that a vintage piece already has a history and a story
In terms of sustainability, Duffy explains: “It’s definitely one of my main business values, coming from an ethical standpoint and environmental as well. So I work a lot with vintage pieces that I upcycle. I source a lot of 1950s to 1970s types of jackets, and to keep a coherent or fluid running theme, I decorate with my patches. The patches are very my style, and that’s what brings it all together.”
She’s been working on the current vintage collection for a while now, she says. It includes her patchwork and sequins on beautiful coats. One such coat has used trails of safety pins to secure patches of monochrome designs, another sports window curtains of large see-through beads trellising flowered patches. These standout pieces are eccentric by design and familiar by nature in their original vintage surfaces. The quilts and laces are never too stuffy with Duffy’s reworking, producing something of an edgy elegance. “I suppose what’s nice about working with vintage is that a vintage piece already has a history and a story. You have to treat each piece in a unique way.”
We want these Irish designers to get a bigger base of customers and a broader awareness
Duffy’s non-vintage pieces are more focused on her print design. She has created vegan friendly t-shirts and black velvet meshwork fit and flare tops. They are collaged with Duffy’s original collage artwork, imbued with a quirky playfulness that seems to regularly surface in her work. Ironic illustrations find themselves beside the Ardagh chalice and Celtic torc, and in other pieces surrounded by fluorescent floral designs and her pink mascot cat.
Duffy’s scarves are more layered than her other designs, with more paint washes and primitive swishing brush lines. The Fionnuala neck scarf is a deviation from the main theme, with a distorted and psychedelic colour design, based on antique books from the Edinburgh library. The inks are Global Organic Textile Standard certified and printed on sustainable merino cotton. She hopes to stock the collection in Irish boutiques after their premiere at Om Diva.
Duffy is positive about her residency: “I think it’s going to be a really good experience in terms of getting feedback from people. This is my first time setting up in this environment. I don’t think I’m nervous, I’m just really excited to meet people.”
Speaking for Om Diva, Power says: “We’ve never done this before. This is our first time. So far, the response has been really good. We want these Irish designers to get a bigger base of customers and a broader awareness.” In terms of stocking new designers, she says, “we are always open to [that]. The sustainability thing is a big thing for us. We are stocking vintage and it’s a really strong part of our business. We don’t only do [vintage] clothes, but also vintage homeware. We are always looking for more. We want you to buy pieces that you love and will pass the test of time. It’s about buying less and buying better”.
The rest of the season will also see award-winning jeweller Emer Roberts take up a residency, plus Danu Ceramics, who featured in the New York Times last year. The precious ware passing through Drury St is a confirmation of contemporary Irish talent. In a burgeoning time for independent handcrafts, Om Diva’s residencies have come at the perfect time. Aisling Duffy’s opening proves just that with its detail and idiosyncrasies. “You just wouldn’t see it anywhere else”, Power confirms.