KILKENNY DESIGN RE-DISCOVERED

I have always had a soft spot for the Kilkenny Design Centre. I remember clearly filling in a week’s work experience with them (yep, both I and they have been around that long!) and being proudly promoted to a few extra hours at Christmas. I spent lots of time folding and generally petting some Cashmere and Alpaca wool jumpers and being utterly fascinated at how soft they were. I certainly must have soaked in some information as, to this day I am obsessed with feeling the quality of a garment and whenever I see Alpaca I associate it with luxury.

I have always had a soft spot for the Kilkenny Design Centre. I remember clearly filling in a week’s work experience with them (yep, both I and they have been around that long!) and being proudly promoted to a few extra hours at Christmas. I spent lots of time folding and generally petting some Cashmere and Alpaca wool jumpers and being utterly fascinated at how soft they were. I certainly must have soaked in some information as, to this day I am obsessed with feeling the quality of a garment and whenever I see Alpaca I associate it with luxury.

These days I skirt through the shop through the now familiar Jerpoint glass, Nicholas Mosse, Orla Kiely home-ware and quirky art up to the restaurant for a coffee date with the hubby. Coffee/chat at home is just too distracting…”I’ll just put on a wash first”..”I’ll just take this call”…and the like. Anyway, I’m more than a bit addicted to the fresh warm scones (with too much butter), and if I’m having a bad day…one of Joan’s yummy desserts and a “hit the spot” fresh coffee.

There’s something very calming about the place as you sit either gazing out at the Castle or into the cute Courtyard. You can almost pretend the city is far far away and not calling you back to work just yet. Even the little ones seem to cool it when we dash in after a run around the Park playground…probably freezing! Hot chocolate and extra marshmallows always does the trick.

It was on one of these recent coffee dates that we dropped into the new Food hall downstairs for a change. As himself took his third phone call I had a look at the yummy wares. All Irish made with extra love added in the guise of organic, gluten free or just plain scrumptious!

As I leafed through my diary (yep, I’m an old fashioned girl..) I saw the words ‘Buy Mam Mother’s Day Pressie” jumping off the page. Yikes! It’s fate. A little wander through Kilkenny Design maybe to see if anything inspires. Mr. M finally gave in and went off to catch up on his calls and I strolled through to have a look.

Eh, Mam…you might want to stop reading now…x

In my day, there were lots of Fisherman jumpers and woollen scarves but there was also lots of Irish fashion and designers that us Kilkenny fashionistas snapped up. I still have a coat and an amazing Alpaca scarf (of course!) that I won’t part with just yet. These days the style is just as enticing with top brands such as Barbour, Avoca and the staple of amazing Irish jewellers that still leads the way.

I found myself trying on a Barbour ‘featherweight’ jacket…eh..Karen – your Mam!? Well..I’m just doing research of course! It was in a classic beige but with a very modern belted waist, hood and (my favourite) big square pockets. I was already working it into my wardrobe in my head when I spotted the Trench coat version too. There is also a very cool version of the wax jacket. Remember the old ones? They weighed a tonne and were hard and crumply that left you with achy shoulders and a damp smell. Well, these new ones are lightweight and cool. The Barbour ones have also had the ultimate endorsement of all the cool celeb festival revellers wearing them throughout every festival season.

I also spotted the very stylish quilted jackets that are so popular. A lot of my shoppers have invested in this look. Neat, practical, warm and cool. Not many brands can cover all.

As for the new Barbour bags!? Wow, they’ve really pushed the style boat out on these. They’ve covered the colour trend and in a contemporary shape and a funky but practical fabric. Hmm…one of those might just fit the bill…Mam…I told you to stop reading!!

Back to the task in hand though. As I pottered around I got a little distracted again as I chatted to the girls about the new hat collection they have brought in. I had spotted them in the window earlier on and was more than curious. A pretty 1920’s style cloche hat with a feather trim took my fancy for sure. I immediately thought of all the girls going to the races or weddings at this time of year who were looking for something that wasn’t the usual nasty fascinator.

The hats are all handmade by designer Patsy Flood O’Connor in Wexford and boy is this lady passionate about hats. I have actually seen her on Nationwide before and hat making is her childhood dream and it shows. She is passionate about her craft and is particularly influenced by the 1920’s and 30’s. She is not afraid to use colour either and each one is unique. Her label is ‘Mad 4 Hats’ and they even create their own textiles, fabrics and colours to achieve their desired look. I also spotted her cute collars which are hugely popular at the moment. A collar is basically like a buttoned scarf and one of these and a matching hat can give your outdoor look a new lease of life. I suspect a lot of girls buy these for themselves. I know which one I have my eye on..

I used to buy a lot of jewellry gifts here (and particularly giving both my nans some pieces from here each Christmas) but, honestly, since I have been spoilt with my brother Derek being a jeweller I have not really had the need to have a good snoop lately.

I actually love looking through the glass cases to see who’s up and coming in the Irish Jewellry scene. My eye was definitely caught by some very pretty beaded necklaces by Urlingford based designer K Kajoux Jewels. This girl is a genius with beads. Her delicate eye and quirky knack of colour combinations makes for some very wearable (and wantable) pieces.

I find sometimes, when you think of beads you think of twee but, this girls designs couldn’t be further from that. Some of them are mini works of art that you will be happy wearing with your little dress hitting the town and out the next day in your casual denim look. I particularly liked her silver wire mesh earrings that were stunning and contemporary. They would look just right dangling through my long hair I think!! And at that price, I might just buy them for myself.

‘For the Birds’ was another jewellry brand that looked interesting. This mother and daughter partnership is based in Dublin and they are going from strength to strength since they formed in 2008. Seeing the designs merge from two generation’s perspective is obviously working for them. Some of the selection is perfect for brides but I liked the statement brown beaded ‘collar’ as I think it would add a unique look to a cream chiffon blouse I have recently splurged on for Spring. Ok Mam…don’t panic…honestly I’m still looking for you…

After my caramel slice and coffee I must have been buzzing as it was like my eyes had been opened for the first time and I was (honestly) wrecking the patient sales assistant’s heads as I quizzed them about all the stuff on show. Some cute polka dot linen bags with matching purses looked very on trend and on closer inspection, very affordable.

‘Earth Squared’ is a Fair trade company, but to be honest that wouldn’t be the big sell for me. They just make very cute bags and purses and at really good prices that I think any of us would treat ourselves to without any guilt. I have to mention though, that I have since been back in the Design Centre and they are disappearing fast.

I promise, after much browsing (a luxury for me these days..) I did find the perfect gift (you’ll just have to wait Mam!) …and honestly…came away with a little something that maybe my brood could “surprise” me with! Next time I may just take the route through the fashion department instead of the usual home-ware. After all, just how many unbreakable Jerpoint wine glasses does a girl need…