Design Centre featured in Financial Times column, ‘How to spend it’.

Local design rubs shoulders with international talent at this Dublin fashion destination.

March 27th, 2011

Deirdre McQuillan 

Ashling Kilduff at the Design Centre.
Ashling Kilduff at the Design Centre. | Image: Johnny McMillan

Though lacking street frontage or window displays, the Design Centre’s second-floor position does nothing to detract from its reputation as one of Dublin’s premier fashion destinations. Located in an 18th-century town mansion, the Centre, originally established as a showcase for emerging Irish design talent, celebrated its 25th birthday last year. Today, under the ownership of Ashling Kilduff, it continues that remit alongside carefully chosen complementary international brands.

House of Harlow bangles by Nicole Richie, €99- €159.
House of Harlow bangles by Nicole Richie, €99- €159. | Image: Johnny McMillan

“We are predominantly about Irish designers but, as time went on, we added international labels to make it more interesting. Now we are 30 per cent international and the rest is Irish,” she says. Established Irish names such as Philip Treacy (hats, from €495) and John Rocha (chiffon blouses, about €395) have a presence here, alongside up-and-coming locals Claire Ann Lawler (who has made hats for Claudia Schiffer and Dolores O’Riordan; from €295), Ella Boo, who’s becoming known for her retro designs (dresses, €175) and Mia O’Connell, whose silken dresses have a modern edge (from €395).

Tuille wedding dress by Ozlem Süer, €2,500.
Tuille wedding dress by Ozlem Süer, €2,500. | Image: Johnny McMillan
Harness dress by Mia O’Connell, €416.
Harness dress by Mia O’Connell, €416. | Image: Johnny McMillan

Kilduff, who has been with the Centre since 1992, took over the business six years ago. “I went on buying trips to London and Paris to watch trends and had an interesting role right from the beginning,” she says. An astute buyer with a knack for identifying promising fledglings at home and abroad, she introduced Preen, Jasmine di Milo and accessories designers Lara Bohinc and Erickson Beamon to Dublin.

Satin dress by Ella Boo, €239; Skull necklace by Erickson Beamon, €859.
Satin dress by Ella Boo, €239; Skull necklace by Erickson Beamon, €859. | Image: Johnny McMillan
Headpiece by Clare Ann Lawlor, €495.
Headpiece by Clare Ann Lawlor, €495. | Image: Johnny McMillan

The spacious, airy, all-white shop, with its crystal chandeliers and bevelled mirrors, has a boudoir feel, accentuated by hand-flocked wallpaper (specially made by Cole & Son) in its four changing rooms. Anna Friel, Jane Seymour and Naomi Campbell are among the clients it has attracted.

Kilduff prides herself on service: “Our customers range from their early 20s and upwards, and a huge number of women who are looking for something for special occasions. Here in Ireland we have loads of black-tie weddings, balls, race meetings and associated events. We look at the fit of every designer every season. You can’t do straight-up-and-down dresses for most Irish women. We have curves, so I try on every piece before I buy. And we do alterations.”

Among Kilduff’s latest international finds are the curvy corset dresses of London-based Israeli designer Lee Klabin (from €900) and Ozlem Süer from Turkey, whose beautiful ecru and lace wedding dresses come with price tags of €1,500 or more. Wilbur & Gussie silk bags (from €120) and House of Harlow jewellery (€99-€159) are there to tempt younger customers. Or bridesmaids.

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