In the year of Irish design, there are few people more interesting to speak with than fashion designer, Richard Malone. Hailing from Ardcavan in Co. Wexford, his creativity, discipline and code of ethics have caused quite a stir within the industry. He is polite, warm, calm and deliberately chooses his words, in a way you might imagine a musician does with a lyric.
However, this contemplative nature must not be confused with passivity – Richard is in fact, the opposite. When it comes to his work, he is blunt and explicitly outlines the parameters to which he ethically, creatively and socially adheres to. He refuses to subscribe to a notion or idea merely because it is ‘en vogue’ – he has an extraordinary clear vision of who he designs clothes for and why. Thus, it’s no surprise that Richard is one of the most celebrated young designers in Central Saint Martin’s history.
Already, he has attained the Deutsche Bank Award and he was the first Irish person and degree-level student to win LVMH’s Grand Prix Scholarship. BBC Radio 3 featured him in their ‘Young Artists Day’, the only Irish person to achieve that accolade and recently, he featured in Brown Thomas’ CREATE exhibition showcasing the best in Irish design. However, London Fashion Week awaits Richard Malone and he is one of three designers to showcase his collection under Fashion East’s sponsorship.
At every opportunity, Richard speaks of his pride to be Irish and even more importantly, to come from a working class background. He gives hope for a new era of fashion and is an individual who we should be discussing and supporting as much as possible.
How would you define yourself, both personally and professionally?
I am a fashion designer but if I’m honest, that’s merely the ‘end game’ and as many exhibitions that I do, no one sees the process of what being a fashion designer entails. There is a lot of writing, painting and drawing and recently, I had an exhibition in Wexford which was purely a curation of my sketches and drawings. I think my approach to design is very different and today, there is a huge cross-over between fashion and lots of other media. It’s a much more exciting era to be and to watch a designer today than in Galliano’s and McQueen’s era as fashion designers are performance artists, fine artists and curators. At least, I think’s it more interesting [laughs]. So yes, I’m a fashion designer but one with a different approach, purely because my background is different and that was immediately obvious even on my first few days at Central Saint Martins. I had a different outlook to so many of the other students.
Coming into a space where all of the other participants have somewhat of a homogeneous experience and background must be somewhat challenging?
I looked to it as an asset as a lot of fashion recently has been quite boring and sterile and the starting point to my collection was almost a reaction to that. There is a process in place at the moment where young designers research an artist, research a designer and smash a collection together but there’s no personality in that and it can’t be sustained. I wanted my designs to be a complete juxtaposition of that and to be completely authentic. At the time of starting my collection, I was working in Louis Vuitton in Paris and was immersed in this world that was really different to how I imagined it would be. Some designers are happy to take very prestigious positions, huge amounts of money and are content but I’m not like that – I question everything. If I was asked to work with a specific animal skin, I would be happy to say no and when I was casting models for my lookbook, I refused to use a model who was size zero. The girl in question was a size 8-10 – she had boobs and she had an ass. She looked great!
Working in fashion, I always feel that because of my class and background, I’m continuously fighting with the industry. I’m not afraid of confrontation.