Irish fashion designers have accused Arts Minister Catherine Martin of cutting her cloth unfairly by leaving them out of the new Basic Income for the Arts scheme.
he Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD) has strenuously objected to the “specific exclusion of independent Irish fashion designers, including milliners, jewellery and accessories designers, from the Government’s Basic Income for the Arts scheme whereas costume designers in film or opera and street artists and circus performers do qualify”.
“Independent Irish designers are jugglers too, seeking to balance recovery from a series of devastating lockdowns with escalating costs for their creative enterprises,” the CIFD – which has more than 40 members – said in a statement.
The council warned the “overall effect of this travesty will be that Ireland will once again export more highly qualified fashion design graduates than fashion collections, to the benefit of other economies”.
Many Irish fashion designers have their work featured in museums, exhibitions and collections around the world in recognition of their artistry. Among them are Helen Hayes and Leonora Ferguson, whose collaborations with glass maker Laura Quinn featured at the Biot International Glass Festival in September.
“There is no rationale to this decision,” said CIFD chairperson Eddie Shanahan.
“Leonora Ferguson’s work has featured at Madame Tussauds and at the Victoria and Albert Museum. If Leonora calls herself a costume designer, she gets the money; if she calls herself a dress designer and milliner, she doesn’t,” he said.
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“Hazel Green hand paints on silk, but she could avail of the scheme if she painted on canvas.
“Designers are absolutely mystified by this decision – and there are only two reasons why we were left out of consideration: one is the lack of empathy with us; and the other is there is no knowledge of the work we do.”
CIFD members say the evidence of Irish fashion art is hardly new. They point to legendary Dublin-based couturier Sybil Connolly, whose fashion legacy is recognised internationally. It was further endorsed in 2017 when the Museum of Modern Art in New York selected the Aran sweater as one of the world’s most iconic fashion garments.