Fashion: Dreaming of Electronic Sheep

Brenda Ahern and Helen Delany, aka Electronic Sheep, have earned widespread acclaim for their imaginative knitwear designs, and count the likes of Kelis and Liam Gallagher among their growing army of celebrity fans.

Why have one incredible designer when you could have two? Founded by dynamic duo Brenda Aherne and Helen Delany, Electronic Sheep are one of the hottest names in Irish fashion. Over the past 16 years, their knitted ‘tapestry-esque’ pieces have gained a cult following and international acclaim. Electronic Sheep are now stocked globally throughout Ireland, the UK, Europe, Japan and Australia – but the story all began on a street in Dublin, as Aherne and Delany grew up as next-door neighbours! And what better way to bond with the girl next door than over fashion?

“Independently we were really into our clothes and music at a young age,” says Delany. “Pre-teen I remember Brenda stopping me on the street to ask about my blue suede desert boots and duffle coat. Brenda had ‘cool’ black eyeliner on. I think our friendship was pretty much sealed during that fashion moment. Those looks metamorphosed into a ‘Cure’ style, followed by serious rocker outfits, merging into hippy and tapering off with a tarty rock chic/’80s style by our late teens!”

Between the two of them, Delany and Aherne have studied fashion, graphic design and knitwear in NCAD, De Montford University, Limerick School of Art & Design, Central Saint Martins in London and the School of Visual Arts in New York. Talk about an international education!

The duo first decided to work together in 1998, when Aherne won an award and they used the prize money to set up a label.

“Initially I asked Helen to work on the branding and next thing I know we are doing graphic knitwear!” laughs Aherne. “But it was the direction that I wanted to go and in fact for our first joint project, we did typographic T-shirts based on hand-prints that Helen made for a book.”

Since then, Electronic Sheep have gone from strength to strength, raking in awards and accolades left, right and centre. Only last month, were they were highly commended by the Crafts Council of Ireland for their new AW17 knitwear design collaboration with Donegal manufacturer Fisherman Out of Ireland.

But music has remained a fierce and undying love for the Electronic Sheep.

“We love working on design collaborations and have done several music related pieces, including design projects with The Dudley Corporation and London DJs The Broken Hearts.” As for famous fans who have worn their designs? Oh, there have been a few…

“Kelis, De la Soul, Dirty Pretty Things, Liam Gallagher and lots of contemporary DJs and musicians have worn Electronic Sheep!”

What makes the label’s work particularly noteworthy is that they’ve taken knitwear out of the realm of the traditional, and given it a funky modern update.

“We normally create complex jacquards,” explains Aherne. “We tend to have less textured collections, and we like to create unusual colour combinations that give them an extra dimension. For AW17 we have experimented more with 2-D surfaces, and have added Aran and cable textures mixed with our jacquard style.”

Electronic Sheep’s current collection was inspired by Parisian artists from the last century, imagining the decadent dinner parties they had.

“One of our favourite pieces is a scarf called ‘Artist Party’,” explains Delany, “which depicts Picasso eating spaghetti, Man Ray having a smoke and Duchamp flirting at the bar – amongst other things! We made up our own story and added characters, so it’s a mish-mash of fact and fiction, but the resulting textiles are loaded with imagery and in some ways more like tapestries.”

Electronic Sheep are also working on an exciting and powerful collaborative knitwear piece for International Women’s Day.

“We are working on this with Sinéad Burke, aka Minnie Melange, a writer and co-founder of the Inclusive Fashion and Design Collective. The design is based on quotes from both contemporary and historic female voices. The typographic scarf will be available online and in selected stockists, launching on International Women’s Day, March 8. Part of the profits will go to Women’s Aid.”

Electronic Sheep’s current collection is available online at electronicsheep.com, and in several stockists throughout Ireland, including Scout in Dublin.

 

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