Belfast-born fashion designer makes her mark at Dublin Fashion Week

Dublin Fashion Week, a three-day fashion design extravaganza attracting buyers and press from across the globe, did its bit on the world stage recently with its spring/summer collections for 2009. 

Ireland's biggest fashion attraction is a biannual trade event where members of the press and buyers can view fashion design collections for the following season, bringing together a glitzy mix of clothes, knitwear, shoes, jewellery and accessories.

Twenty-four designers from all corners of Ireland showcased their collections this year, including up and coming Belfast-born designer Zoë Boomer. 

'My goal was to create a capsule wardrobe of chic, edgy daywear that Boomer collectiontransformed effortlessly into urban evening elegance,' Boomer says of her Dublin collection. 'The new collection has a refreshing Grecian twist. I’ve focused on shades of ash green and coupled them with inky blues and dashes of hot pink.' 

Boomer's story is not exactly rags to riches, but a childhood dream of becoming a designer and businesswoman come true.

'My dad was a businessman and when I was younger I used to tippex out his name on his business cards and put Zoë Boomer over them, then hand them out to people. I was always dressing up, making and selling things.'

After she left school, Boomer attended Lisburn Technical College to take a course in Art and Design and Business, and it was there she realised her creative potential and decided to focus on a career in fashion. 

At the tender age of 17, in 2002, Boomer left Belfast and moved to London to study at the London College of Fashion. It would be a steep learning curve. While the design aspect of the course came naturally to her, the practical side was harder to handle.

'It was a shock when I had to start to make garments and hadn’t a clue. The teachers used to laugh at me, especially the first time I turned on the industrial machine and screamed because of the sound it made.' 

The determined teen overcame this hurdle, however, and over the past six years has learnt that the only way to survive in the fashion business is with 'thick skin and a soft heart. I know I had to build up a lot of confidence because here [in Northern Ireland] we tend to run ourselves down'. 

When it came to making a name for herself after graduation, Boomer's styling experience helped her tailoring to stand out in an already swamped fashion market. She describes her style: 

Boomer collection'I’m very much into simplicity, I tend to get one or two big pieces of fabric and create something, and instead of trying to cut into the fabric and force it to do things it doesn’t want to do, I let it do what it naturally wants. 

'A lot of my work is very natural and flowing, and because of my styling experience I’ve learnt to play with clothes and fabric, to shape women’s figures and complement them.'

A fan of designer Stella McCartney, 'a simple, natural designer', Boomer is inspired by clothes that combine style and luxury, and infuses both aspects into her own handmade collections by using only the best silks and silk-chiffons. She makes clothes that she would like to wear herself. 'It’s the only way I know how to create.'

Boomer now develops her collections from her studio in Putney. A relatively young venture, Boomer's new label has already made its mark on the fashion scene internationally with agents in London, Ireland, Vancouver and LA. 

Recent highlights include dresses short-listed for Madonna’s latest movie, Filth and Wisdom, and high profile stars including Natasha Bedingfield and upcoming actress Laura Michelle Kelly. 

Forward-thinking boutique owner Suzanne O’Keefe is an obvious fan of Boomer's work. 'I’m always looking for new and exciting labels with a unique edge, and for me the Zoë Boomer signature look is ultra glamorous with a cool irreverence. My clients love it.' 

Fashionistas can view Boomer's designs on her website, ZoëBoomer.com, or in designer boutique Suzan Belle in Kilkenny. 

Elaine McComb