“You come across a lot of attitudes when it comes to design. But, the type of people who say that it’s a waste of time, usually know nothing about what you do. They think that Art College is you sitting down with a box of crayons every day. They don’t seem to realise that everything comes from design. That everything they use on a daily basis comes from a designer”. Smirking slightly, regarding these so-called attitudes, Irish Designer, George Murray gives a final frank but simple conclusion. “I just think it’s bullshit”.
Bullshit has no place in the work of George Murray. Soil, yes. Vinegar too. Recycled materials play a massive part as do the young designer’s unimaginable embroidery and illustration skills. But bullshit? Not a one.
A recent graduate from NCAD, the breeding ground for many of Ireland’s creatives, George Murray’s final collection from his four year course embodies a symmetry of sartorial beauty and sustainability. Spending a mere €100 on the collection, a miniscule fee when compared his colleagues’ average spend of €3,000, Murray managed to create collection that not only triumphed aesthetically but managed to speak consciously about the effect of fast fashion in the world.
A market whose visibility in Ireland is ever growing, Murray reckons that the craze of consumerism is slowly starting to be challenged by the conscious. “People in Ireland have definitely gotten better over the last two years. They are more concerned about where their clothes are coming from and many are really starting to tune into just how horrific workers’ conditions can be and all for garments which we are throwing away”.
Laying his focus on sustainability, Murray sees that though we are moving forward, old reliables are still holding us back, with “most still going to Penneys to buy their basics”. Advocacy without judgement, Murray sites that he doesn’t condemn us for this consumption of fast fashion, but he feels that we are simply misinformed. “People regard sustainable clothing as this really beige, boring thing. They don’t realize that it can actually be, aesthetically, something really amazing too”.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or, in this case, the young designer’s graduate collection. Ethically sourced materials laden with a technicolour palette, Murray achieved this anti-beige through researching different methods of natural dying. Eco Colour by India Flint, a text which focuses on botanical dying, helped Murray to hone this practice. Unconventional methods leading to unimaginable creations, Murray recalls his work with eco-friendly dying. “I soaked a garment in vinegar, then placed it in between two pieces of copper and buried it in the ground for three weeks and it came out this gorgeous, rich, emerald green. I had no idea how it would turn out but it just worked”.
Surprise is a theme which will continue on with Murray’s work. Initially designing purely for women, his next collection will see his pieces fabricate themselves for both sexes. “I’ve been drawing the female figure for as long as I can remember, so it was more natural to do womenswear. But as things progressed I figured, why shouldn’t I create for both genders?”
With womenswear generally at the forefront of the fashion scene, Murray reckons that there is a big misconception when it comes to men and fashion in Ireland. “It is assumed that Irish men don’t like fashion, that they just don’t have the interest”, Murray’s voice is droll, he sounds tired of discussing the topic, or perhaps tired of fighting his corner. “Menswear is dumbed down for us here. I am so sick of seeing heavy knit jumpers, with a button detail on the collar and basic jeans in every single shop”.
With his new SS17 collection, Murray is attempting to break that stigma. Complemented by the evanescent, social and cultural landscape in Ireland, he reckons that there is a market for his creations for men. “Things have changed so much here over the last ten years. We have been [previously] branded as such a conservative country, but we’re not”. A mould shaped neatly around our dear, old, Catholic Ireland, Murray believes that recent events have, among other things, dressed themselves in the form of sartorial expression amongst Irish men. “Things have changed since the Marriage Referendum. Attitudes have changed. People, especially men, have realised that this is a time and a place where you can wear what you want”.
The time is now, according to Murray, and the place, is here. Ireland. When asked, as so many young Irish creatives and designers are, about the desire to seize prospects and opportunities abroad, Murray gave an immediate and resounding NO. Breaking it down clearly he says, “The thing is, nearly everyone who attends Art College in Ireland thinks that they will eventually have to leave because there are just no jobs here”. Murray’s voice picks up that slight, droll edge again, “Well, maybe, if more of us stayed here, more work would be created.” His eyes roll slightly before he speaks steadily again and continues, “We have to make the opportunities for ourselves. [In recent times] so many design collectives and artist collectives have been set up here in Dublin and, as a result, so many possibilities are being created. That is why people, like our creative graduates, need to stay in Ireland in order for this momentum to continue”.
And that’s exactly what George Murray intends to do. Stay. And build up his fashion brand indigenously. Though he says that the dream of owning a “big, massive” international fashion house is not something he would turn his nose up at, Murray’s goals are simple. Not simple in the sartorial sense, there they are anything but. Instead they are simple in what he wants to achieve, which is, comfort.
“I basically just want to make a living off designing and not have to bend for anyone else.” There you have it simple. And, for any creative trying to make a living, the absolute dream.
Words: Sinead O’Reilly
Image Credits: Tain King
Photo: Karl McClelland Closeup of George’s embroidery