Straight off the back of winning three awards — the Christopher Bailey Collection of the Year Award, the Considered Design Award and the Hilary Alexander Trailblazer award — at the Graduate Fashion Week 2019 Gala, we caught up with Edinburgh College of Art graduate Brian Mc Lysaght! Brian tells us about his final collection, inspirations, the time it took to create his show stopping wooden garments, and his plans for the future.

Photo by Nicholas Kristiansen

Photo by Nicholas Kristiansen

Congratulations on your amazing award wins at the Graduate Fashion Week Gala! How are you feeling?

“I’m feeling ecstatic and so grateful a bit exhausted to be honest! ! I’m also so grateful to everyone who is in my class because we work so collaboratively, we’re always in dialogue with each other  and i think the standard at Edinburgh and the standard that we hold each other to is what got me here. I’m so thankful to all my friends in the audience and my fellow graduates.

Have you enjoyed being at GFW19?

Absolutely, it’s been incredible. It’s wonderful, the structures that GFW puts in place with getting graduate designers into internships and job placements because it is so daunting and so difficult to find your future after graduating.

Photo by Jade Berry

Photo by Jade Berry

Photo by Jade Berry

Photo by Jade Berry

Your collection was incredibly unique — can you tell us more about it?

The idea to work with wood came with about because I wanted to tackle the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry so i wanted to use organic and biodegradable materials that won’t end up as pollution and will return the bio-nutrients to the earth. I’m very interested in material culture, anthropology and museum artefacts so the idea of using local plant based materials was really important.

What inspired the aesthetic choices you made for your collection?

That was where my major aesthetic influences came from the study of subsistence economies and early civilisations was what really inspired the collection and so I wanted to try and represent ancient Irish culture which is something that’s very much forgotten about and largely erased by time and through British colonialism. I wanted to reconstruct that visual language and represent the ancient mythology and deities through clothing.

Photo by Deborah Iona

Photo by Deborah Iona

Why was heritage something that interested you as a subject to explore?

I think at the moment people have become really conscious of cultural appropriation and there’s a greater awareness and an ethos of empathy behind design. A lot of people are driven to examine their own culture and their own heritage at the moment so I just did the same really! It’s an area which isn’t very well know so I wanted to shed a light on a culture which is often uneducated. Even going through the Irish education system, we don’t look at our own ancient history very much so I think it’s a largely forgotten area of history that is worth remembering!

How long did it take you to make some of your pieces?

The wooden turtleneck which is all stitched together tiny panels with elastic thread which took about 6 weeks. When I’ve had to work really quickly I have made a pair of wooden trousers in about 4-5 days but that was very intensive work! It’s an arduous process. I was thinking about craftsmanship and design for longevity and reverence. They’re more show pieces and artefacts than conventional clothing.

Photo by Jade Berry

Photo by Jade Berry

What’s next for you and what area of the industry do you see yourself getting into?

My aspiration is to work in sustainable, ethical design production and i’m very interested in how designers can work closely with supply chains and organise ethical supply chains. I studied with Anita Dongre in Mumbai who works with local artisans and employs rural women who otherwise wouldn’t have access to jobs or education. So I’m interested in how fashion supply and production chains can become, instead of a site of exploitation, more regenerative systems. Instead of causing negative impacts on the world, they can be a force for good.