Fashion Breakthrough – Interview with Organiser and Designer Lisa Shawgi

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Fashion Breakthrough DublinLisa Shawgi is the very inspiring and very hardworking brains and talent behind Dublin’s, Fashion Breakthrough; a week-long event involving fashion shows of the AW09 collections of 13 Irish designers. As well as the chance to buy their featured designs from a pop-up boutique on Cows Lane.  I managed to grab a few words with Lisa this afternoon to chat about the event and why it is so important for the Irish fashion industry as a whole.

Whisty: So Lisa, Fashion Breakthrough 2, it’s pretty exciting stuff!

Lisa Shawgi: It is, we’re 4 days away, it’s in a fantastic venue and everyone is so supportive, so we’re really looking forward to it.

W: What makes the Fashion Breakthrough collective so important?

LS: I think it’s important for different industries to cross over, it’s important for designers to network with photographers, graphic designers and artists as well as other designers. Especially in Dublin where there’s so little that goes on for the creative industry. I mean there are still events happening but you wouldn’t realise it because the media hasn’t really touched on it; it’s just important to bring the underground, ‘over-ground’.

W: How did you come up with the idea for hosting this kind of event?

LS: There are three sections to Fashion Breakthrough, there is the pop-up boutique, the trade show and the public fashion show. The reason we did it that way is that the boutique would be aimed at recent graduates who are not prepared for the likes of a trade show so they are looking to break into the industry and just test the water. Plus show that they are quite as serious as anyone else out there. I thought if I don’t do it, who will? I got talking to a lot of designers and they were all pretty much on the same page as I was. Everyone that I spoke to after the last event was very keen to become involved for this one. They realised you need something like this and in getting the media involved in it means that it’s not just reaching the likes of artists and designers but also the general public.

W: So you’re not only organising the entire event but you’re also showing your own collection… are you mad!?

LS: Ha-ha, I know, I’m crazy! Last time it was just pretty much myself and I was co-managing the Loft Market. Dublin City Enterprise Board supported us from the word go which was great and it adds credibility and shows just how serious this event is. It is very time consuming and it is a learning curve, but this time round we have a lot more support. This time round it’s me, Journalist Therese McKenna and Karen Brown who’s a graphic designer organising the event. I don’t know how I did it all before.

W: So tell me about a little bit about the last fashion show.

LS: The stylist, Angela Scanlon, did a really god job of having everything flow really easily from one to the next. The DJ created an identity for each designer by projecting logos on the wall as well as changing the music to suit each collection. It was such good fun. Last time we hooked up with Fashion Evolution Week who are very much about ethical fashion. We brought on-board the likes of belleEtik which is an on-line ethical boutique, I’m very keen on bringing these kind of companies on board to make people aware that they do exist in Ireland. This time Cow’s Lane Designer Mart and the Loft Market, Powerscourt Townhouse, are involved in the show too.

W: Who else will be involved?

LS: When someone approaches us, we ask for a bit of their background, it has to be Irish designs and Irish made, that’s the whole point of it. One of the people involved is a company called Shuttle Knit; who are very much about community and Irish made ethical fashion and that’s why they are included. It’s not just about Irish designers it’s about trying to bring Irish manufacturing back here; 10 years ago you would have had no problems getting stuff manufactured in Ireland but it’s so difficult at the moment, they have all been driven abroad.

W: Why do you think that that is?

LS: Economic reasons, cost reasons; there are so many elements involved.

LW: Speaking of economics, what do you say to people who say that designer fashion is just too expensive?

LS: It really all depends on who you’re looking at and what you’re looking for. For instance, my range has affordable pieces, like €45 – €65 for a bolero but if you’re looking to actually invest in a piece for a special occasion, you’d be talking about the €500+ mark. How I look at fashion is how I look at art; if someone goes into a gallery and spends €2,500 on a painting, you see it as an investment. I know there are a lot of trends out there which are a little bit less expensive if you go to the high street shops but if you go into the Loft Market you can find some really unique, individual pieces at affordable prices. It really all depends on your budget, I would prefer people not to think of designer fashion as being really, really expensive but think of it as being really individual and creative and worth going and having a look at and a try-on of these pieces.

W: And the future for Fashion Breakthrough?

LS: The intention of Fashion Breakthrough is that it is going to a serious, long-term event on the calendar. It will happen twice a year and become stronger and stronger as it goes on.

Tickets for Tuesday’s fashion show are priced at €15 and are available from tickets.ie see more blogs about Fashion Breakthrough.

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