I love dramatic, creative designs and Aisling Duff does some amazing designs using wool textiles which have the most beautiful aesthetic. She has a magical way with working with wool and I love the colours that she works with. Aisling is so innovative with her creations that her modern knit style is very unique.
This Dublin-based designer has just finished her joint BA (Hons) Degree in Fashion Design and History of Art & Design from the National College of Art and Design. She will be graduating officially this month! I am beyond delighted to be featuring her today on Floralesque as I truly believe that she is one to watch.
Have you always been interested in design?
As long as I can remember I was always interested in art and design. It’s all I ever wanted to do, study art and make. It was my favourite and best subject in school, and I could never see myself in anything other than something creative.
Fashion was always an interest, I loved reading fashion theory and was obsessed with fashion as art and why we wear what we wear. My bedroom wall as a teenager was ceiling to the floor covered in colourful editorials from magazines and ripped out textures and looks from any place I found them.
When did you first come in contact with fashion that led you into a career in the industry?
My first contact really wasn’t until I went to college at NCAD. I was the first in my family to go to art college. I knew I was drawn to fashion and textiles as a study choice and my first year of college (which was a core year of all arts and designs ) proved I was obsessed with fabrication and garment construction even though I had never even used a sewing machine! I went on to study fashion design and learn the technical skills needed. College introduced me to design while working in an Irish designers boutique with buyers introduced me to the business side.
I love that you work in wool as it is one of my favourite textiles. What drew you to it?
Thank you! I love hand knitting and the feel and look of thick yarn. I use mostly felting yarns to knit as it creates an oversized, clean stitch and is great to create pattern and texture on. Wool is natural and has an essence of the old, ritualistic Irish tradition of knitting which is close to my heart while the matte finish gives a fresh, quirky look to the garments which works in bright colours.
I used soft Marino wool for most of my pieces which are soft and dense and usually does what its told! I like looking into alternative and new speciality yarns as well such as soybean yarn and rose fibre yarn which has a beautiful pearly finish and has the romantic, poetic undertone – fitting for my design aesthetic. One of my pieces is made from it.
Your aesthetic is quite bold and bright. Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
My inspiration behind my design process came from my theoretical studies in college where I’ve explored the relationship between storytelling and fashion. Taking visual inspiration from a form of emotional, mental storytelling – confessional poetry – the work of poetess Sylvia Plath became a huge influence on my collections aesthetic. Drawn to her dreamy, surreal imagery of honey, beehives and sweets, my work toys with the ideas of young, feminine vulnerability in off whites, candy pinks and warm yellows.
Juxtaposing this is the exploration of Plath’s underlying confessions of oppression and anxiety. There is an interesting contrast in her work between vulnerability and power to control it; the reader only sees emotions willingly presented. By visualising a voice, textures and forms can be derived from these emotions and thus fuel my collection. The overall feel of the clothing as you wear it mirrors that of the feeling of comfort and intimacy one might find reading a Plath poem.
As a designer, I love fabrication and texture. I allowed the words, sounds and imagery from poetry to dictate what textures I knitted. Overall, my designs aim to be witty, quirky and fresh and it is really important to me that I change people’s ideas of knitwear which can be unexpected and bold and cool. I love the idea of knitwear that is the most modern definition of feminine.
As a young designer, shows like the Cork Fashion Show must be amazing to be a part of. How important is support like this to an emerging designer?
The Cork Fashion Show really made a point to promote Irish design which is great because we are a country full of incredible talent and it’s important to support homegrown talent and creativity. I think right now is a very exciting time for Irish fashion. I feel it is starting to be seen as more contemporary and fresh, striking that balance between good craftsmanship and modern design.
Brands like Simone Rocha and JW Anderson are making a name for Irish Design abroad while Helen Cody, Natalie Coleman and We Are Islanders are really proving here at home at Irish fashion is both exciting and well crafted. I’m very proud to be an Irish designer.
Support like this is so important as it’s a difficult career path. Getting recognition and a shout out from people in the industry is such a great start to getting my name out there. I’ve met amazing buyers, designers, models, photographers and stylists through events like Dublin Fashion Week and Cork Fashion Week and it was incredible being able to pick their brains. As a young designer right out of college, all I can say is a really appreciate it. It’s been incredible for meeting so many people in the industry and getting my work and ideas out there. It’s something I’ll never forget and definitely don’t take for granted.
Are there any designers that you find inspiring or that you look up to?
Yes, there’s so many incredible inspirations from Irish brands such as Electronic Sheep which does the coolest graphic knitwear and Simone Rocha who creates beautifully textured pieces that have a young girliness I love. Out from home, my favourite design houses would be Del Pozo and Issey Miyake. Colour, concept and coolness!
Would you have any advice for up and coming designers (something you wish you had been told!)
Its tough. And it is not glamorous! The design is about the commitment. There are all-nighters several times a week; it is very costly to buy materials and to study it (could have done with some one warning me about the expense!). My advice would be always to remember why you want to design and make and work hard. Also, always listen to peoples opinions as fashion is for everyone. Everyone wears clothes and everyone will have an opinion but also remember to stick to your guns and your voice as a designer.
What does the future hold for A.E. Duff?
My plan now is to keep on making and continue from my collection, building up my portfolio while gaining some hands-on experience with designers. More long term, I’m really hoping to do a masters degree in knitwear. The big dream would to have my own brand!
A massive thank you to Aisling for the interview – I cannot wait to see what she creates next under her label A.E. Duff 🙂 You can follow her along her creative journey via her website, Instagram and Twitter. It is also just the perfect time of year to be looking at her designs – they just look so cosy and luxe.
All images kindly provided by Aisling to use and credited where requested.