Collaborations in fashion are nothing new – think about how Karl Lagerfeld and H&M in 2004 set the ball rolling on the high street that prompted other alliances. In the luxury area, high-profile partnerships have included Louis Vuitton with Stephen Sprouse, Beyoncé with Balmain, Vetements with Juicy Couture, Crocs with Christopher Kane, Simone Rocha with Moncler and Stella McCartney with Adidas to name but a few.
Here in Ireland, fashion designer Alanagh Clegg of Four Threads and milliner Freya Oatway of FAO – both with a common sustainability design ethos – have created an alliance that is working to their mutual advantage.
Clegg’s commitment to slow fashion and to quality fabrics such as Irish linen and handwoven Indian cotton reflect that of Oatway, who uses eco-friendly natural sinamay straw, fur felt and vintage trims. Their cooperation can set an example to others.
Both produce handmade collections meant to last rather than following trends and the rules of fashion. “Our collections sit really well together, there is a crossover with customers and there is no competition because she is doing hats and I am doing clothes,” explains Clegg. Says Oatway: “It’s lovely to work together, to bounce ideas off each other and talk about textures. Her daywear is full of textures and muted tones, so hats are perfect accessories for her outfits.” Both share the same ideas of timeless, classic clothes using quality fabrics.
Both work alone – Clegg in Kildare, Oatway in a former clampers’ industrial building in Harold’s Cross – the lockdown affecting each of them in separate ways. For Clegg whose brand was starting to make an impact – with sellout collections in Create for two years, two popups in Optica and interest from Paris from concept stores like L’Eclaireur and L’Exception – the shutting down of some of her Indian suppliers was a setback, though online sales started to grow.
For Oatway, her focus pivoted from making hats for race meetings and weddings to concentrating on sunhats and everyday wear for her signature fedoras and panamas to go with dresses and coats. She has used Zoom to connect with customers who will show their outfits “and we will discuss colours and styles” she says, her site including a guide on how to measure your head for size.
Having cut her teeth with Philip Treacy and completed a course in the London School of Millinery, Oatway makes hats the traditional way, moulding over hand carved wooden blocks and hand stitching everything. Her elegant and dramatic wide brim straws add more shade to the face as well as a bit of mystery.
Clegg founded Four Threads while still at NCAD after which she took a year out to work with the pioneering slow fashion menswear designer John Alexander Skelton in London, whose clothes involve recycled fabrics and a lot of handwork. The enduring quality of her relaxed casual clothes – nothing tight or constrictive – means they are meant to last a lifetime and remind me of a similar ethos in the clothing in Maureen Doherty’s famous Egg shop in London. Customers, according to Clegg, are “people interested in design and art, and conscious of what they invest in – a lot of photographers, chefs and others in the design area”.