- 14 Oct 19
Informed by her wide international travelling - including a stint living in Japan - Lisa Wynne's stylish designs also prioritise sustainability.
On the website of Dublin born designer and world traveller Lisa Wynne, she declares, "When I was growing up, I wanted to be a fashion designer." She means it quite literally. "I have sketchbooks from about the age of eight," she reflects, "where I was drawing three-outfit seasonal collections. I remember wanting to use my mum's sewing machine well before being allowed to. I made clothes for Barbies and did photoshoots with my doll on a little 35mm camera. I started making clothes for myself in a fairly anarchic way around 13. I was really proud of a pair of punkish trousers I made from a second-hand tartan dressing gown!"
After studying in NCAD, completing modules in knitwear and menswear, extensive drafting and construction training, and later specialising in ladieswear, Wynne's graduate and follow-up collections were both given rails in the Design Centre in The Powerscourt Townhouse. "That was a great context for those garments," she notes. "I had designed and handmade them with a lot of couture, luxury spirit."
Wynne has always found inspiration in reusing and reinterpreting pre-existing fabrics and garments. "The handbag of my early teenage years was made from the top of an old pair of jeans," she explains. "While in college, I made a range of aprons from scraps of cute prints for the Christmas gift market. I salvaged gloriously ornate fabric from old Japanese kimono belts for accents in my 2014 collection. I also love working with linen; it feels beautiful and can be obedient or drape wonderfully as needed."
Wynne has travelled extensively and spent a lot of time in Japan, experiences which have proven very fruitful and inspiring. "I visited a lot of European cities in my early twenties," she recalls. "I would always prioritise the galleries and museums. I loved them and it felt like absorbing a vast visual, cultural and historical reference library. After visiting Japan in 2012, I decided to try living there for a while. That turned into four years in the stunning countryside of northeastern Japan. That was a logical step due to my interest in Japanese aesthetics, contemporary fashion and traditional garments. But it coincided with a bit of a crisis in my career choice. The realities of the fashion industry were not what I had imagined growing up, and I took up a teaching role in order to move to Japan. While working there, I discovered much more about how to live a fulfilling life, through identifying things I love - like mountains - or experiences I'm not so keen on."
Wynne says the most challenging aspect of her career has been the rise of fast fashion. In response, sustainability has become an integral part of her design ethos. "In a world so overwhelmed with stuff," she says, "and in an industry so obsessed with the new, I found it hard to reconcile my values with the linear model of make-wear-dispose. With globalisation, low wages in other countries prop up a market flooded with low cost clothing here, and clothes just aren't special anymore. There are enormous abuses of labour and the environment across the fashion industry. But as terrible as they are, there remains the same degree of potential for the industry to create positive change for people in the supply chain all around the world."
Wynne's interest in sustainability has inspired her current project, a one-piece boiler-suit garment. "It's a work in progress," she says, "but I think the utility and simplicity is really soothing my craving for considered functionality. Since moving back to Ireland from Japan in November 2018, I have been writing monthly newsletters at tinyletter.com/L_Wynne. Any creativity is happening in the small spaces between working part-time in an alterations shop - repair and re-wear is so important! I also work remotely part-time for a specialist tourism operator in the area where I lived in Japan."
Lisa Wynne's designs and her writing on issues like sustainability are available on lwynne.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @L_Wynne and Instagram at @PandaGoPanda.