Native Chilean Ale Walsh moved to Manila in the Philippines in 2006, where she was gifted a table runner in abaca fiber (a species of banana native to the country) for her birthday. This simple everyday gesture resulted in an accessories brand rich in traditional ethnic materials, expert craftsmanship and a timeless quality integral to the Ale Walsh brand. Having grown up in Santiago in Chile, making dresses for herself and her dolls out of her mother’s old clothes, Ale was immersed in fashion and creativity from an early age. After studying business at Dublin City University (her husband is Irish) and discovering the rich variety of native materials available to her in the Philippines, Ale launched her own fashion accessories business. She is self-taught, the initial stages of the business involving a huge amount of handcrafted jewellery magazines and online tutorials. “I’m a very curious learner. I’m constantly searching for unusual new materials , techniques and sources of inspiration.”
One of the materials Ale uses in her designs is T’nalak, a traditional cloth and product of the abaca plant, made by the T’bolis people of Lake Sebu in South Cotabata. “Using these materials turns my accessories themselves into storytellers and I love that.” Traditionally hand-woven by women, this sacred art is passed down from generation to generation, each ‘dreamweaver’ learning it from their mothers, or grandmothers. It takes five years to perfect, after which, they begin the process of recording their dreams and the dreams of their ancestors on the cloth – motifs include items from their natural habitats; waves, mountains, butterflies, arrowheads and eagle’s wings.
This cultural aspect, combined with Ale’s modern take is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise conventional and highly saturated market. Her unexpected colour combinations and textures, including snakeskin, and elegant shapes, define her brand. “I love breaking rules and taking massive risks in my collections, in order to create something new. I don't like playing it safe. Fashion is about having fun at the end of the day.” Her Spring-Summer 2016 collection is a fusion of gemstones in gold-plated accents and rich colours and ethnic patterns – a much-needed injection of vivid colour and style this rainy February.
Ale Walsh's handbags and jewellery are available at Arnotts, Style Ikon in Monsktown, and Made in the Powerscourt Centre.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRISTINA HIGGINS
First Look: Knitted embellished jumper, Zara, denim skirt, Zara, black patent shoes, Clarks, black and white striped socks, H & M, yellow hand-woven clutch, Ale Walsh Designs
Second Look: Knitted floral vintage sweater vest, 2nd Space, Pink floral vintage shirt, 2nd Space, multi-coloured chunky ring, Om Diva, navy, pink and silver block heels, Topshop, yellow hand-woven clutch, Ale Walsh Designs