Helen Hayes: Crafted Couture

Irish fashion designer Helen Hayes infuses contemporary couture with traditional elegance

by Edel Cassidy
Words Edel Cassidy

With a passion for couture finishes and traditional handcrafted techniques, Helen Hayes infuses her collections with tailored elegance and a contemporary flair, ensuring each garment possesses a captivating tactile allure.

Here, she tells me about her journey to becoming a fashion designer, what inspires her and the great impact her childhood exposure to traditional crafts has had on her work.

Can you share your journey into the world of fashion design? What inspired you to follow this career?

I grew up on a farm in County Tipperary and there was a love of handcrafts in my family. I was taught to knit and sew from a young age under the guidance of my mother and grandmother. I remember my grandmother purchasing Irish tweed fabric to make her own garments. There was also an elderly neighbour, Mrs Stanley, who taught me to crochet. 

I initially studied graphic design at the Limerick School of Art and Design and worked in that field for many years. It was only when my daughter started school that I increasingly wanted to revisit the techniques I had been taught as a child and to learn how to do everything ‘properly’. I studied at the Grafton Academy of Fashion Design, Dublin, at night one evening a week and gradually increased my hours. I graduated in 2015.

Model wearing a contemporary silver and white outfit designed by Helen Hayes
Organza ‘circles’ top with pleated silver skirt and headpiece. From Helen’s first collection at the Grafton Academy of Fashion Design. Photo: Lilly Rose McDonald.

At the start, how difficult was it to create brand awareness and get your label known? 

I never planned to establish my own label; my aim was simply to explore its potential. The label’s growth has been gradual, mainly through word of mouth. A significant milestone was in 2019 when I participated in the ‘Create’ project at Brown Thomas, Dublin, where I introduced my ‘squares’ bags and shirt dresses. Another pivotal moment was joining the Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD), chaired by Eddie Shanahan, which connected me with a community of fellow designers.

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