“At the end of the day, we have to look back at collaborations with customers’ eyes and stop talking about price and waste and start talking about joy and quality and natural fibres - opportunity,” says Eddie Shanahan, chair of the Council for Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD).

Sound familiar? No matter how hard you work and no matter how much you love being out in the fields, it has to pay its way doesn’t it?

Listening to Eddie talk about working with designers and crafts people, I can’t help but see similarities with the farming sector.

Specialising in the business and product development for fashion, craft and retail sectors for decades, there is one key point that is crucial for Eddie: “Experience is much more important than opinion. Because it is grounded in the day-to-day realities of our business.”

Some may say experience will trump opinion when it comes to getting through the tough moments of rural life.

Establishing that he works in the business of fashion, Eddie points out there are many misconceptions about this world and he is working hard to dispel these myths.

Misleading buzzwords

For instance, the buzzword associated with fashion these days is the ‘circular economy’.

As Eddie explains, this means plastic bottles are made into polyester yarn and this is then made into garments.

But nowhere in that circular economy conversation is the word biodegradable being mentioned. Because, this yarn does not biodegrade.

“What many people don’t know is that there are figures there to suggest that 36% of the micro-beads in the ocean are coming from re-washing polyester,” Eddie tells us.

A little like the myths farmers are having to contend with when it comes to the new environmentally friendly food choices?

Describing how the CIFD came about as a result of sheer loneliness, Eddie explains that a designer phoned him one day despairing at the isolation of her work, having no one to bounce ideas off, due to its solitary nature. Out of that phone call, the idea for the council emerged.

Structure and influence

Now, the CIFD has worked with 28 other fashion councils across 25 countries to form a European Fashion Alliance. Together, they are engaging with the European Commission to bring about a serious, informed contribution to sustainability at policy level.

Some would say this is also true of agriculture groups here in Ireland and working together in Europe?

Now, there is a potentially triggering word - sustainability…

A sustainable culture might be one where at the design point, we design in zero waste

“In this whole sustainability argument, we mix up circularity and sustainability. A sustainable culture might be one where at the design point, we design in zero waste,” he explains. This would mean the designer favouring natural fibres.

“Designing for end of life as well as the beginning of life for each piece. That is really, really important,” he expands.

“If we want to move forward, we need to tell the joyous story of what it means to be sustainable.”

I suppose you could say it is about being positive, but not in a woolly way.

There will be plenty of joy at the RDS on Thursday 2 March when the eighth annual ARC Fashion Show takes place.

Unveiling collections from Ireland’s exciting designers, all funds raised will go to ARC support centres, which provide free psychological and emotional support for anyone affected by cancer.

With Eddie producing the show, he tells us that they had to print over 100 extra tickets such was the demand to support this event.

Eddie has put a solid structure on the world of fashion - does he see any similarities between fashion and farming?

“Fashion, interiors and farming, we do have a reason for dialogue and we do have an opportunity for collaboration. Some of the best projects are collaborations,” he replies.

We’ll leave it there…

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