Jennifer Rothwell is an Irish fashion designer. She was born in New York and spent many years living between the Big Apple and the Fair City.
I was born in New York and brought back over here when I was ten months old. I was raised here, I went to college here – but I always knew I’d be going back there. I moved back to Dublin in 2005.
How would I say Dublin has changed since I came back? It’s just a lot more multicultural, I suppose. It’s very modern, all around the Docklands is very cosmopolitan. It’s a bit more like London. The old part of Dublin, I love; I love South William Street. I think it could still be more diverse when it comes to creative industries. But it’s a great place to people watch!
I am inspired by the world I live in and influences of the past, particularly our Celtic heritage
When I opened my shop in the Powerscourt Centre, I wanted to support other designers. I like to help other designers; it’s very difficult to get a Dublin stockist. My shop, as far as I’m aware, is the only retail outlet that actually has products that are 100% made in Ireland. Jewellery, clothes – everything made 100% in Ireland. All the Tourism Ireland research says that [tourists] want to find independent Irish designers that they can buy from. Bring it back! We’re waiting for somebody good in the system that wants to help; that wants it to be their legacy that they say, “I helped the rebirth of Irish design”. And who wouldn’t want to see something beautiful flourish and know that you were a part of that?
You go out in Dublin, it’s brilliant. It’s always an adventure
I have two children. I’m doing my best to keep the heritage there! When I went away and I came back… Now, I really appreciate our culture. I appreciate the beauty of the landscape. I love Irish music with lyrics sung in Irish. I think it’s the most beautiful, haunting, fabulous language. And we really don’t appreciate it. We need to keep our culture. I’m sending both my kids to a Gaelscoil.
I am inspired by the world I live in and influences of the past, particularly our Celtic heritage, Irish artists, folklore, legends and traditions. I had always wanted to design a stained-glass print and several friends suggested Harry Clarke’s works, as they saw a huge similarity between the colours we both used. I visited the Hugh Lane Gallery and was blown away by Harry’s art. It’s so weird – I really believe there are a lot of coincidences in the things that he and I love, like Northern Ireland and the fairies. I didn’t realise that until after I decided on the collection. I went to the north and I found all these fairy glens; I spoke to his niece and I was hearing the stories. I just thought it was phenomenal. It’s brilliant.
I didn’t realise until I came back what I missed about Dublin when I lived [in the US]. What I found lovely was the friendliness. I lived in Queens for a few years. If you’d go to a local bakery in the store, it was very like, “Next. Next.” And you try to be nice to them – “Next!” You were just shut down. Whereas I remember coming back – and you know the real Dublin, like you go into the butcher’s and they’ll have a little bit of banter with you. Or you go with your trolley and you might not have change and they’ll say, “You can have it, love.” The friendliness.
When I do go out, I love [it] because I always have great stories to tell the next day. Grogan’s, Pygmalion; we like Madigan’s, that’s kind of nice. That’s an old Dublin pub. I like Bruxelles. You go out in Dublin, it’s brilliant. It’s always an adventure. You can go to four different pubs and you can meet such a diverse group of people. And you can have such a great laugh.
The Irish are the best. They are. You’ll find that out. They get you.
See Jennifer’s latest designs and more at jrothwell.net
Jennifer Rothwell was talking to Lynn Harding.