Award-winning Irish designer Honor Fitzsimons creates fashion knitwear for the “cool-girl.” Her pieces are bold, innovative and visually arresting – a fusion of traditional values and fresh concepts. Having graduated from Central Saint Martins and interning for Diane von Furstenburg in New York and Louise Goldin in London, she returned home to Dublin, establishing her label in 2012. Her autumn-winter 2015 collection saw her delve into the traditions of Irish craft (her grandmother knitted Aran jumpers all her life), such as basket-weaving and ancient artistic stone carvings. She recently showed at London Fashion Week with ID2015 and is currently redefining our understanding of good craftsmanship, through her knitwear and her role as fashion editor at Irish magazine, Totally Dublin.
I speak to the designer below about her unique aesthetic, design process and a 'knitted knickers' project she embarked on in Central Saint Martins.
You recently showed at Unfold:ID 2015 in London with ten other Irish designers – is there a close-knit sense of community amongst you all given the size of the industry?
Honor Fitzsimons: Yes it's close-knit and supportive, we all have quite a unique sense of design identity but can really appreciate each others work. The Unfold presentation really displayed those differences in style yet how well they stand together and the level of craftsmanship in fashion.
Good design, strong colours and innovative textures are key components to your work – do you think your aesthetic has changed since your graduate collection at Central Saint Martins?
Honor Fitzsimons: No not at all, perhaps more sophisticated in style, but you never know with fashion - I may want to revisit glittery furry knit in the future!
Being a designer yourself must give you extra insight as fashion editor at Totally Dublin. How do the two roles influence each other?
Honor Fitzsimons: As a designer that cares more about the craft of fashion than the hype, I like to get into the process behind it. A person who does not know how to knit or solder or stud leather would never know how much process takes place, plus the design work, plus the presentation. My Totally Dublin articles are really about the work that goes on behind the scenes to create the pieces people love.
How would you style your knitwear this winter? Who is your customer?
Honor Fitzsimons: Layered up with a shirt, a masculine coat, I like to contrast knit with tailoring. My customer is on the go, wants to look great but is not interested in being overly dolled up, just sling on an amazing knit, look great and go.
What is the first item of clothing you knitted?
Honor Fitzsimons: We had a knitted knickers project in Central Saint Martins in first year, I did mine based on Hubble Telescope imagery. I got all of this stunning silk yarn from Handweavers Studio in London in really beautiful tonal colours. It was my first time experimenting with colouration and I loved it.
What is your design process? Do you listen to music while you knit? Drink lots of tea?
Honor Fitzsimons: I always have a 'feel' for something, it's like a design intuition, and I do some initial imagery research and then straight into the colourway. Motifs may appear in artwork or imagery that inform the textile, or the textile will come from playing about with the yarn and develop from there. Then I'll think about the feel of the collection to inform silhouette, draw lots of designs, toile, knit large samples. If I'm happy to go forward, pattern for the shape, then calculate the tension, and lots more calculations, then the first sample piece is knitted. If it doesn't need any alterations that first piece will inform how the rest of the collection is knitted, and usually the designs are made more complex from there. Knit garments need to be knitted, blocked, steamed, then linked, which is crocheting the seams closed and this takes a long time, so this is where the tea and telly comes in!
What has been your highlight so far?
Honor Fitzsimons: 2015 has been a really amazing year for me; winning the Future Makers Award for Innovation, the RDS National Craft Awards for Constructed Textiles, and then to top it off with showing on-schedule in London Fashion Week with ID2015. I definitely got to push my craft with the new collection for Spring Summer 16 so I'm very excited about that.
Photography: Christina Higgins
Pink, black and white knitted cardigan, Honor Fitzsimons, white beaded polo neck, H & M, black and white panelled trousers, Topshop, maroon boots, Zara, white shoulder bag, Vintage.