For designer Robyn Lynch, Irish roots run deep. Since her debut collection in 2019 at London's Fashion East, Lynch has been paying tribute to the place where she grew up, the home that formed her. Her designs aren't inspired by a rose-tinted, sentimental view of Ireland, but instead are material explorations into memories of her own youth and the lived experiences of her friends and family. It is a design journey dosed with a sense of humour about how Ireland is seen from the outside; a country rich in history and yet often maligned to misty stereotypes.
Nowhere is this better reflected than in the teaser image posted to her Instagram in the run-up to last Saturday's A/W 22 presentation at London Fashion Week. From within a clear plastic ziplock bag emblazoned with her logo burst out the verdant tendrils of shamrocks, still embedded in the Kerry earth they were dug from.
Lynch laughs when asked about the symbolism behind the most Irish of plants being encased in a highly functional object of the modern age. ”What is the thing you think of with Ireland? Shamrocks and leprechauns.” Her mission for the image was to “take something that is so stereotypical and traditional and done in the shittiest way for St Patrick’s Day, and try to put a twist on it and make it modern.”
It’s a mission reflected more widely across her design practice. Lynch isn’t just representing her country as it stands now, she is actively furthering Irish design on the world stage. That growth starts with her own craft, telling SHOWstudio “I think for this season, fabrication and actual raw material development was a main thing for me. I really wanted to up my game.”
Lynch put in the work on research trips around Italy and England, turning up new fabrics developed from ocean waste and pulling a treated viscose typically used in womenswear to craft men’s outerwear. Hi-tech reflective thread is woven into the softness of cotton denim to create flash-activated logos that feel fully integrated into the garment.
For the second season in a row, Lynch partnered with American sportswear brand Columbia for a fresh take on her coveted, limited-run jackets. The completely re-worked pieces are a demonstration of Lynch’s technical skill; taking apart deadstock packable parkas to create entirely new menswear silhouettes with scalloped seams that reference conventionally quilted jacket sleeves.
The Columbia collaboration pieces sit comfortably next to Lynch’s new mainline collection which is blocked out in acid green, royal blue, earth brown, and slate grey. These are primal colours drawn not just from the outdoors so many of us turned to for solace over COVID lockdowns, but also from inspirations closer to home.
Out for drinks one Saturday evening, Lynch clocked the brown jacket/blue hoodie combo her friend was wearing and snapped a photo to bring on a textile dyeing trip in Leicester. This sense of intimacy is laced throughout the mainline pieces, where hand-beaded outlines of Ireland cover a pair of trousers and that same outline is woven in bouclé onto the chest of a jumper.
Where the intertextual nature of the collection is its strongest is in the knitwear Lynch developed with Tokyo-based speculative laboratory Synflux. It was an intensive 18-month long project that had started with running family photos through an AI algorithm, one that rendered her memories almost "too unrecognisable, too digital. I needed it to be a physical thing.”
She found that tangibility in her father’s old football jerseys, and the resulting computer-generated trompe l’oeil were used to create tops with intarsia knit images that feel both instantly familiar and yet somehow slightly beyond our grasp. Capturing the ephemeral nature of memory in a textile that feels futuristic rather than nostalgic is a showcase of Lynch’s conceptual strength.
Lynch’s A/W 22 collection is her largest yet, but she asserts it is her most concise. Judging from the pieces she sent down the runway, Lynch has clear perspectives on Irishness, sustainability, and masculinity. They are reflected in the innovative techniques and materials she is exploring season on season, something her growing group of sportswear fans will love.
What makes her one of the most interesting young designers to watch, in addition to her technical work, is her uncompromising ability to weave together deeply personal meditations on home, friendship, and youth to create pieces that have universal resonance.