The last time the Irish Country Living team saw Brendan Courtney in person was on stage at our Women and Agriculture conference last October in the Lyrath Estate, Co Kilkenny. He was wearing a chic blue jumper paired with gorgeous tailored trousers, and had adorned a fluorescent sweatband on his head, while he danced and jumped around on stage to a Shania Twain song, as part of the entertainment provided by Sing Along Social.

Earlier at the conference, Brendan had been in conversation with editor Ciara Leahy, captivating the audience with light-hearted banter. He spoke honestly about the documentary he had made about his father’s last year of life, We Need to Talk About Dad, his experience with the Fair Deal Scheme, and how he and his family were dealing with his mother possibly having to move into a nursing home.

“Mum now lives in a nursing home,” says Brendan. “She’s very comfortable and happy. I call the bingo there sometimes, when they let me. She was at home for a few years after dad died and she wasn’t very active. Now she has a full social calendar, a beautiful room, and she’s safe at night. She’s fully supervised. I love the staff in there, they’ve become family friends.

“The time between realising that’s what had to happen and it happening was awful. It was one of the hardest things and very traumatic for the family. But we’ve come out the other side and everyone is comfortable and confident in where she is. She’s in great health and safe and well and that’s the most important thing.”

Summer collection

Brendan has an extremely busy career – in the last year, he broadcasted the 9am slot on RTÉ Radio One while on television, he currently presents the popular show Keys to My Life. This is where Irish personalities reveal how the places in which they’ve lived have shaped their lives in a unique way, often reuniting with surprise faces from their past.

He and his friend David O’Reilly have also just begun the first series of their Any News? podcast, in which the pair discuss funny local news stories.

“The podcast came about because David and I are friends,” explains Brendan. “He’s in 2FM and he did a section with me one day on the show, which was reviewing mad local news stories and I just thought, this is brilliant. That’s where the concept came from.

“It’s so much fun. So many people in media started in local news, so we know what it’s like and the fantastic stories that are reported. Only people who live locally see it, so now we’ve given it a national platform. I belly laugh every time we record. We pick a different county each time and try and dazzle each other with facts that we Google before we start. David is very funny.”

Ag labhairt Gaelige

Brendan and David have set themselves the challenge of recording a podcast episode primarily as Gaeilge – something which both feel passionate about doing.

“I spoke Irish fluently until I was 15, having gone to an Irish school. I lost it when I left school. My generation ran away from it, I think. I’ve now reconnected with my language and I’m learning Irish again,” says Brendan.

“We’re taking part in Creidim Ionat (I believe in you) – a Foras na Gaeilge initiative in partnership with RTÉ. It calls on everyone with an interest in Irish to pick a language goal to work towards, with the help of a mentor and a wide range of resources – to learn Irish in four weeks, intensively. It will be hard, but also fun.”

Tamara high waisted wide leg trousers, €85; Freedom strappy top, €50; and Tamara batwing cocoon jacket, €95.

Some of the Lennon Courtney collection, including Summer Full Moon Fit and Flare dress, €150.

Lennon Courtney

It is fashion that really drew Brendan firmly into the spotlight for Irish audiences and highlighted his skills and passion for the craft, presenting Off the Rails from 2008 with co-host Sonya Lennon. It was through this pairing that they became friends and eventually business partners with their fashion brand, Lennon Courtney.

Last year, Lennon Courtney launched a new partnership and first collection with retailer Kilkenny Design. In January, they dropped their spring collection and this week, their summer collection is launching. The 2024 collections are drawing inspiration from Ireland’s pagan history and mythology, which is something Brendan is passionate about.

“This collection is themed around Bealtaine, the pagan word for spring or rebirth and signifies the moment of change,” he explains. “Shedding the winter months as we move towards the sun. I’m absolutely obsessed with paganism.

“The last collection was themed and inspired by Ostara, a pagan goddess, who is the horizon where the land meets the sky, which means a new dawn is coming. Bealtaine is the flourishing of that dawn. It also means inspiration.”

“What I love about paganism, and I think there’s a general awakening to paganism at the moment, is it transcends all religions. It goes back to appreciating, respecting the land and also celebrating it. It’s so ironic that it ties so closely into values now around climate.”

The Bealtaine Collection by Lennon Courtney and Kilkenny Design is overflowing with joyful colours and prints, tempered by the anthracite grey undertone of the ocean.

“The collection is in light fabrics that are breathable,” says Brendan. “For example, we have these amazing palazzo pants with an elasticated waist and beautiful print, with a matching print vest loop, but it’s loose. So, it’s really easy to wear. It’s perfect for if you’re on a sandy beach in Ibiza in your flip-flops or going for dinner. I’m really excited by it.

“Also, for years, we have wanted to put our prints into homeware, and, so, that’s coming. We’re doing ceramics, glassware and candles, cushions and throws – the homeware is growing constantly as a concept.”

Irish fashion

With a keen eye always on what’s happening in fashion, Brendan has noticed some key changes in Ireland and people’s opinions of clothes.

“When I started Off the Rails, I remember in the summertime wearing loafers with no socks and cigarette leg trousers and people just went bananas. Some people still say it to me.

“I was really shocked at the reaction. I mean, lots of women wear shoes without socks. I found it like a really perverse notion that I couldn’t wear shoes without socks. Now a lot of men where shoes without socks and tight, tight, tight jeans!” he laughs. “Tight jeans are over, by the way.

“Since the pandemic, magic underwear is also over. Thank god. The corsetry that women had been putting themselves through, thrusting into discomfort, has become a thing of the past. Pencil skirts, for example, gone. Unless it’s stretchy and it moves, women don’t want to wear it anymore.

“We actually got rid of sizing in our collection. It’s just extra small, small, medium, large or extra large. Everything is stretchy, and if not stretchy, it’s flowy. If you like your clothes to be sort of fashion and volume, go for the large or extra large, or if you’d like it to be a little more neat on the shoulders, go for the medium. We’ve made them easy to wear.”

Brendan Courtney.

The future

“The big future plans for Lennon Courtney are America and the UK,” says Brendan. “That is a big part of being with Kilkenny Design too because they have a massive foothold in the US. We’re also working with Enterprise Ireland for support in that department because it’s complicated. If you’re going to go in somewhere, you have to buy to reflect the market, but you have to do the marketing to back it up. You have a load of plates to spin”

On the home front, Brendan also has a big project in process. “Personally, I’m renovating a home at the moment in Wicklow. I’m just literally in budget stage right now and the demolition has started.

“It’s terrifying,” he laughs. “It’s not terrifying, it’ll be fine.”

Brendan’s tips for going shopping

Ask a friendly assistant for help. You’ll always get somebody who’s really into fashion and they’re dying to help. Tell them what you’re roughly in and around sizewise and what you’re wanting the garment for. For example, if it’s for day wear or a wedding.

Try, try, try! Just the process of this will change your opinion because you’ll never know until you try.

Don’t be in a hurry, give yourself space and time because you’re investing in something that’s going to make you confident. And if you don’t know what to wear, wear navy.

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