Fashion student draws inspiration from nature and urban life

Designer Lisa Dooley and model Lorna Caulfield, with Lisa's collection ‘Symbio City’, pictured at the DIT Fashion Show Student Design Competition semi final in Dublin. The DIT Fashion Show Final will take place in Vicar Street on April 19.

A young Galway-based designer and committed vegan – who refuses to use fur, leather, suede or silk in her designs – has been shortlisted for the most prestigious student fashion awards in the country.

Lisa Dooley – originally from Offaly but now a student of fashion at Galway Technical Institute – is one of nine finalists participating in the DIT Fashion Show, now in its thirteenth year.

Run entirely by students, the fashion show attracts an audience of over 1.000 – and this year’s theme ‘My Metropolis – The Story of A City’, aims to explore the “hidden beauty” and “romance” of metropolitan cities.

Lisa’s collection is called ‘Symbio City’, and her aim was to ‘create an outfit inspired by a city, where natural and man-made elements are harmoniously interwoven; Mother Nature and the Mother City working together’.

The appropriately titled collection derives its name from an initiative introduced by the Swedish Government, ‘The Symbio City Approach’ – aimed at promoting sustainable urban development.

The competition brief was announced in January, whilst Lisa was completing an internship in Helsinki. On returning home she had just two weeks to complete and submit her sketchbook.

The design sketchbook is a place for testing and refining ideas. It requires showing evidence of research, development, experimentation with several materials, techniques and designs; all in all, a substantial body of work.

The idea of fusion between the natural and urban environment was one she knew she wanted to explore further.

With her trusted camera and artistic eye, Lisa trailed the streets of Galway looking for inspiration.

She shot and captured many images of urban landscape, “parts where nature was creeping in, or where the weather had visibly altered the city.”

“For some they might be an eye sore, but I discovered some really interesting patterns,” she said – but that only made her wonder!

“Imagine what could be done, or what the city could look like if we incorporated nature more into the design of the city – as opposed to big concrete blocks and boxes,” she said.

A committed vegan, Lisa believes the natural environment should be respected and protected – and her designs reflect her personal ethics and are made from recycled and renewable materials.

No fur, leather, suede or silk (from silk worm) is used. She does however use bamboo silk for the dress – an artificial silk made from bamboo viscose.

Lisa sourced the material from an organic fabric company in the UK. Bamboo fibre is said to have natural antibacterial, hypoallergenic and deodorizing properties, plus Lisa adds – “the proteins are good for your skin”

She also admits to hunting charity shops for vegan friendly fabrics and garments, picking up interesting patterns in pastel pinks and muted colours. The jacket features copper wire, which she says is ‘reflective of the central role technology plays in metropolis life’.

Her own favourite designers include fellow committed vegetarian, Stella McCartney, urban fashion designer Alexander Wang and Irish designer, Jonathan Anderson.

The young Irish designer is already making her mark on the fashion scene having won first place at the Cradle Fashion Show – the closing event of Dublin Fashion Festival 2015 – for her three-piece collection, using recycled materials, under the theme ‘Futuristic Beauty’.

She also qualified as a finalist in the 2015 Irish Fashion Innovation Awards, and was a Semi-finalist for the 2015 Young Designer of The Year award.

Lisa, and the other eight finalists will battle it out for the €2,000 prize fund, at the Fashion Show event in Vicar Street on Tuesday, April 19.

Judging the event is TV personality Brendan Courtney; former DIT design competition winner and influential Irish designer, Umit Kutluk; designer and stylist Maria Fusco; and fashion editor of the Irish Independent Bairbre Power.

Tickets for the DIT Fashion Show are priced at €20 with net proceeds going to The Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation.

The charity supports 2,000 children nationwide with home nursing care, including 130 in Galway.