Young fashion designer who refused to sacrifice comfort for style wins prestigious €4,000 Brown Thomas bursary

Young fashion designer who refused to sacrifice comfort for style wins prestigious €4,000 Brown Thomas bursary

Rebecca McCabe’s investigation of how formal clothing has changed in the wake of the pandemic earned her one the most valuable student prizes.

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he 22-year-old from Rochfortbridge in Co Westmeath has been awarded the prestigious NCAD Brown Thomas ‘Designer to Watch’ €4,000 bursary which identifies future talents and mentors them.

Fashion’s post-pandemic state reveals a desire for casualization. Rebecca looked at a hybrid with glam sportswear that allows maximum use, but where comfort is important.

“I noticed over the course of the pandemic how people were reacting with their clothes and interacting with them, and that people were not really willing to sacrifice comfort any more for style,” says Rebecca.
Her ‘Pookie’ collection explores streetwear with elevated texture that can also be worn to big events. She explored textures by experimenting with pairings, mixing dressy with casual, such as lycra with suede.

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Shell: 50% polyester, 50% cotton
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“It’s that idea that they are able to cross over, and create a much more transitional wardrobe which is very important so that you can get the most out of your pieces, and you can dress them up and down,”Rebecca.

“I don’t even think it’s that we are leaving formal behind, I think it’s that we are creating a new hybrid between formal wear and a more casual way of dressing and what’s really coming through is the comfort. That’s something people want to keep while still looking quite glamorous. I think it leaves us with this new area to fill with clothes.
“Today, it’s acceptable to wear trainers with a gown. It is great because it makes you feel more comfortable and confident.

Judges praised the final year fashion design student at NCAD for his creativity, innovation, and clever use of material.

Rebecca created her paper-effect fabric from three layers of shot silk, vilene, and an orange waterproof PPU fabric. This fabric acts as the lining for her coat.

Silhouettes can be large and two coats can be laser-cut and feature macrame knitting technique to connect the garments.

They were paired with two lycra looks, including a cream bodycon with mesh paneling and a print she made with machine embroidery and a navy unitard with bespoke printed.

“I think they can be used in many different ways. The embroidery on the bottom of the cream-lycra dress elevates it into a more formal look. You can wear it with heels or trainers every day.

Rebecca explores how formal clothing has changed over time. She says, “I think people found a really great balance between athleisure & more formal dress. It became more acceptable to wear casual clothing to formal events.

It was on display at the MET Gala. There were loads of runway shows.

As a typical example of the comfortable-on-the red carpet trend, she names the celebrities. “gorgeous”Emma Emhoff wore the outfit to the 2021 Met Gala.

Kamala Harris, a model and fashion graduate who is also the step daughter of US Vice President, wore a Stella McCartney Red Diamond mesh bodysuit and matching trousers, as well as adidas by Stella McCartney trainers, to the event entitled “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”.

The Brown Thomas bursary offers a €4,000 cash, mentoring by executive as well as a place next month in the CREATE show in the Grafton Street store. Customers can see Rebecca’s large pieces with knotted rope threaded through the holes she punched in jackets and coats with a punch and a wrench.

Rebecca’s collection was praised by Shelly Corkery (Fashion Buying Director at Brown Thomas Arnotts). “absolutely outstanding”.

“Her collection had incredible detail which made for such beautiful contrast. I adored the way Rebecca pulled it all together especially when she expressed her sense of colour with her macramé on leather and also her oversized coat which is ultra-modern and very diverse.”

Laoise carey, from Co Tipperary, was the previous winner of this ‘Designer to Watch’ bursary. She won it in 2017. She now has one label dedicated to sustainability in fashion. It uses everything from old linen curtains to lac doilies.

Una Curran was the 2020 winner. She impressed with her collection that was inspired by bird flight patterns. Aideen Gaynor won the 2016 contest with a collection that was inspired by Haruki Murakami’s novel End of the World.

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