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December 12, 2017
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Lorraine Dimond. The Graduate Fashion Show in the Milk Market in Limerick. Photo by Patrick McHugh

The first in a series that aims to look Beyond Central Saint Martins for an education in fashion, Elizabeth Neep seeks to discover what has contributed towards Limerick School of Art and Design's great successes in producing talented and creative professionals. 

Established in 1852, Limerick School of Art and Design is the oldest school at the Institute of Technology, Ireland. With a long history of delivering world-renowned programmes in fine art and design, LSAD has an award-winning reputation and world-renowned alumni that altogether feels disproportionately great when compared to the city's humble size.

Size Matters

Ciara Connelly Kilbride
The Graduate Fashion Show
in the Milk Market in Limerick.
Photo by Patrick McHugh.

In a metropolis hosting around just 60,000 people, LSAD still gains global recognition for its academic success, having even appeared on US website Fashion School's list of the 'Top 50 Fashion Schools and Programs Across the Globe.'

Speaking with The Genteel, Professor Tracy Fahey, Head of the Department of Fine Art and Head of Centre of Postgraduate Studies at LSAD, explains how the school's relatively small size is a strength: "With 862 students and campuses in Limerick and Clonmel, it is large enough to create a critical mass of creative students and yet small enough to create a sense of community. The school [is] situated in a city [that is] friendly to the arts and full of artist-led spaces."

Related: The Mentorship Track

Ruth Doyle, a fourth-year Fashion Design student at LSAD, also agrees with Professor Fahey's opinion: "[It may be] a small community-based college in a small city [but] I advise [others] not to be turned off by the size of the college or the surrounding city. It is really nice to actually recognise the faces that you share classes, tutorials and the general college with. It is a really good place to start off your journey to becoming a fashion designer."

Impressive Alumni

The successes of LSAD's alumni certainly seem to suggest this is the case. Past graduates of LSAD's Department of Design - currently led by Head of Department Professor James Greenslade - include numerous international fashion figures. The clothing and accessories designer Joanne Hynes studied Fashion at LSAD; her designs have appeared in fashion weeks worldwide and her client list boasts Paloma Faith, Daphne Guinness and PJ Harvey.

Graduating from LSAD and receiving an MA from Central Saint Martins, Sorcha O'Raghallaigh was named Selfridge's top emerging designer in "The Bright Young Things" initiative and has since gone on to establish her own very successful label, dressing none other than Lady Gaga herself.

Our staff tends to be research-active in their practice as well as in an academic capacity, so students are offered strong role models of professional engagement.

Creative Community

The school offers a diverse range of courses, which range from Knitwear and Ceramics to Digital Animation Production. The success of these modules is owed in part to LSAD's close-knit community: "The greatest pleasure in working at LSAD is working with creative students and colleagues," Professor Fahey explains enthusiastically.

Related: Backstage Pass: Irish Designer Mary Callan at MFW

"[They] form a vibrant community of fine artists and designers [and a] friendly, energetic, dynamic atmosphere."

Role Models

"LSAD has a strong staff/student ratio of 1:14," Professor Fahey continues. "Students can avail of mentoring. Our staff tends to be research-active in their practice as well as in an academic capacity, so students are offered strong role models of professional engagement."

Ruth Doyle speaks highly of the mentoring she is receiving during her study of Fashion Design at LSAD: "We are lucky to have the opportunity to work closely with all members of staff here. Our course attitude is very open so it is exciting to meet with tutors week in and week out to see what fresh ideas arise from these meetings. The college is also well known for interdisciplinary collaborations, for which the mentoring is […] very strong."

Collaborative Approach

Professor Fahey notes that she has witnessed an upsurge of interest in interdisciplinary working amongst her students in recent years; something that the courses at LSAD are designed to accommodate. Speaking of her own course, Ruth Doyle explains how her first year of university allowed her to experiment with many areas of specialisation and follow a series of intensive projects before opting for the design stream and specialising in fashion.

Despite receiving mentoring in "pattern drafting, sample cutting, knitwear design", along with numerous other technical classes, Ruth notes how much of her course remains "self directed," with LSAD encouraging students to learn from each other. "I have to admit that working alongside my classmates, some of the most talented and lovely people I know, is my favourite part of studying here. We really push one another in order to achieve our goals."

Professional Preparation

Intended to develop creative confidence and prepare students for their entry into the professional working world, LSAD's blend of theory and practice has seen students placed in leading fashion houses such as Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood to gain work experience. One such highlight of Ruth's time at LSAD has been her time spent with the team at Sharon Wauchob in Paris. "A major part of third year was the work placement module which is inbuilt into our course. We must complete a minimum of 13 weeks in industry from April onward after finding the placement by ourselves, interviewing for them and securing the work," she notes.

Aisling O'Riordon
The Graduate Fashion Show
in the Milk Market in Limerick.
Photo by Patrick McHugh.

Alongside these placements, there is "the Graduate Fashion Show, [which] is an all inclusive event, so that no one student is left on the wings," Ruth explains. "It is a huge production, drawing in press and guests from all over the country."

These shows are produced by Eddie Shanahan, Chairperson at the Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD), along with his talented team who have previously had experience working with many designers across Europe. "We are incredibly lucky to have this opportunity guaranteed for us after all our hard work," Ruth adds earnestly.

City of Culture

The Graduate Fashion Show is not the only event LSAD has to look forward to in the coming year. With 2014 declared the year of City of Culture for Limerick, the city will play host to a number of cultural affairs.

Related: Downtown Dublin: Tamp & Stitch

"We are hosting several events," begins Professor Fahey, "such as [a] fashion show [featuring] Sharon Wauchob, an alumni festival of art and design, an international residency programme, a Gothic conference, an inflatable sculpture festival and the graphic design festival OFFSET."

Ambitious Aspirations

In terms of strategic development at LSAD, Professor Fahey also holds high expectations for 2014. "The Irish recession and national cuts in education have posed challenges, but we have continued to survive and flourish in spite of these. [One can] expect more development at post graduate research level...a new programme in game art, and a degree in contemporary interdisciplinary art taught through blended learning."

Also scheduled to be opened in 2014, is the Irish Fashion Incubator Limerick: "[This is] an exciting new initiative aimed at capturing some of the talent that annually leaves Limerick by providing incubation spaces and mentorship for young designers."  

Bending and shaping to "stay abreast of changes and new directions in practice," Professor Fahey is justified in concluding that those working and studying at LSAD are undoubtedly "living in exciting times." The path towards success seems positive.

Related: Making Noise About Irish Design

Related: Passion Project: the Irish Design Collective

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