If you’re familiar with menswear, then you’ll know all about British heritage brands. And American ones. And probably a fair few European ones. But when you think of Ireland, which labels spring to mind? OK, aside from a couple of designers like Orla Kiely or J.W.Anderson (bonus points for anyone that remembered that milliner Philip Treacy is from Ireland).
Enter Stighlorgan [pronounced STI-LORG-UN]. Quietly designing fantastic men’s accessories, they’ve developed into the kind of brand that others look to for ‘inspiration’ and as such, we’re big fans.
Founded just a few short years ago, Stighlorgan has come on leaps and bounds thanks to an ingenious creative process that (as far as we’re aware) is the only one of its kind. Over to Christian, one of the founders, to explain: “Before any design work takes place, we sit down with Davin Gaffney [a Dublin-based writer/poet and long-time friend of the designers] to chat.
Yvonne [the brand’s other co-founder] introduces a thought, or a rough direction; I add things that have inspired me recently, like materials, objects, shows and the like. Davin then goes away for a month or so, and writes a poem for us; sometimes this has a link to what we discussed, sometimes only the faintest trace is recognisable. Either way, once we receive Davin’s poem, it becomes gospel for the season.”
In filtering their inspirations and ideas through a writer and poet’s eyes, then reinterpreting that back into its products, Stighlorgan’s design process is both unique and genuinely interesting, without being over-pretentious. It’s a simple solution to seasonal reinvention that could only come from a romantic Irish background.
“It always leads us in interesting directions,” Christian continues, “for example, after a full season of development, we’ve ended up creating a new luggage fabric that’s a kind of vinyl corduroy and arranged in panels to represent a line about ‘filaments of ice fracturing’.”
It’s certainly a cut above the usual seasonal switch between patterns and dark colours. And this fresh approach to creativity is unsurprisingly mirrored in Stighlorgan’s products. A range of rucksacks, totes and other bags that take cues from heritage brands but use fresh materials, unusual colour combinations and clever design solutions to bring them bang up to date.
It’s something that’s been noticed by international buyers too. Christian recounts the story of a Japanese buyer who “can tell an American brand a mile off”, but how Stighlorgan was “a bit of an enigma, with half European and half American aesthetics. It made so much sense to use as the Irish are often a very interesting mix of those cultures”.
And that’s not all. The founders recently took the plunge to open their first standalone store. Except, as you might expect from Stighlorgan, it’s not that simple. Not only does it occupy a prominent corner plot in the heart of (perhaps slightly unexpected) Dalston, it’s a multi-brand store stocking other labels that mesh with their aesthetic. Think Elvine, Waven, Percival and Bee… brands that take traditional ideas and give them an entirely modern spin.
As Christian says of Bee, “Ben Crane’s brand is a showcase of his unique approach; every jacket has seams and details you just won’t have seen before”. Not only that, they designed the entire store in-house, and the resulting space fuses a warm Irish welcome with sharp industrial vibes.
So, why else do we like Stighlorgan? Well, aside from their unique approach, fresh product range (that is entirely redesigned every season), exciting retail space and the fact that their bags are seen on everyone from London Collection: Men attendees to a surprising number of urban cyclists – isn’t it time there was a thinking man’s Herschel?
Stighlorgan is just that: a bit of a cult gem, and one that’s definitely worth investigating.
Shop Stighlorgan’s latest range at 1 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, London or online at stighlorgan.com.
Stighlorgan Spring/Summer 2015 Collection