The Marble City will give a whole new meaning to the word ‘catwalk’ this autumn, as the first ever Kilkenny Fashion Festival now looks set to go ahead.
The festival has been given the green light by Kilkenny Borough Council, along with a €7,500 cash injection from the Marketing Kilkenny Fund. The three-day event, in mid-October, is to boost the profile of Kilkenny nationally as well as promote tourism and spending in the city.
Already, nearly 20 different boutiques and fashion outlets in the city are on board for the event, with other local businesses expected to throw their hats in the ring. The festival will be an exciting addition to Kilkenny’s already-packed calendar of events, falling between the Kilkenny Arts Festival and Savour Kilkenny.
It is the brainchild of the Kilkenny City Centre Business Association, and is to be organised by renowned fashion stylist and producer Catherine Condell, who has worked for some of Ireland’s biggest fashion shows including that of Brown Thomas. The KCCBA has said that Ms Condell has promised national television and press coverage of the event.
Traders from 18 different Kilkenny boutiques and fashion stores met Ms Condell at a meeting last month. The tone of the meeting was described as ‘overwhelmingly positive’, and a committee has now been established to progress the fashion festival.
“The Kilkenny City Centre Business Association is hoping to hold an autumn/winter fashion event in October to promote Kilkenny City as a unique shopping destination,” said chairman of KCCBA Jim Flynn, in a letter to the borough council.
“We particularly want to emphasise the number of speciality boutiques and High Street labels in Kilkenny City.”
The KCCBA also intends to involve local hotels and restaurants in the event.
Some of the money raised is also to be donated to three local charities – the Amber Women’s Refuge, the Kilkenny/Carlow Homecare Team, and the Cois Nore Cancer Support Centre. Any additional funds are to be reinvested to promote Kilkenny City.
The borough council’s decision to allocate the €7,500 (75% of the Marketing Kilkenny Fund) was the source of some controversy in the council chamber on Monday evening. Several members felt there had not been adequate consultation with – and within – the council.
“There was no agreement as to what this fund was to be used for,” said Green Party Councillor Malcolm Noonan.
“Is it a direct marketing initiative or part of festival funding? I think it would be prudent to meet with the City Centre Business Association before allocating this funding, to see what they have planned.”
Fianna Fail’s Cllr Joe Reidy, however, said that such a meeting was unnecessary.
“This is a fantastic event and something that should be welcomed,” he said.
“Eighteen boutiques have already committed to it, and they are working with restaurants and other businesses to make it work. We should be 100% behind it. I think it is fantastic that they have come up with an idea that hasn’t happened before.”
Cllr Noonan said he had no objections to the idea, but felt that the lack of consultation was not adequate.
“I have had no correspondence from any of the City Centre Business [group],” he said.
“The first I have received was here in this chamber tonight. I merely asked about meeting with the KCCBA to discuss it with them.”
Labour Party Councillors Sean O’ hArgain and Marie Fitzpatrick both observed that there were five different groups in the council chamber, and all of them should have been consulted on the issue.
Mayor Fitzgerald said that to some extent, he agreed with the sentiments of the councillors.
“Other groups have come forward to this chamber, made their case and been cross-examined by the members. It is somewhat unfortunate that this process wasn’t followed,” he said.
“But the KCCBA has a good and strong record of delivering for the city and for businesses within the city. We should proceed with this on the proviso that in the future, a full briefing must be made to members.”