The Wylde Interview: Robyn Lynch
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST: ROBYN LYNCH HAS WHAT IT TAKES TO BE THE NEXT BIG THING IN UK MENSWEAR DESIGN. WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT THIS IRISH NEWCOMER? DAVID NEWTON FINDS OUT ABOUT PATRIOTIC PRIDE… AND TUCKED-IN TOPS
Photography by Etienne Gilfillan
“The day you start liking my stuff, Dad, that’s
when I’m in trouble!”
Recent menswear design graduate Robyn Lynch is recalling a typical conversation with her father back in her hometown of Dublin. I’ve asked to meet her after spotting her coolly commercial designs during the University of Westminster’s inaugural runway show at London Collections: Men in June this year. In a hard-to-miss display of high-impact patriotism, all the garments were delivered in the colours of the Irish tricolour: green, white and orange. And although Robyn recalls her father declaring: “That looks like something you’d wear for the St Patrick’s Day parade!”, fashion journalist Charlie Porter announced: “The whole collection could go on the shop floor right now.”
Wylde: That’s high praise from one of the industry’s most trusted observers; it makes me wonder what it would take to convince your dad you’d made it?
Robyn Lynch: He says to my mum: “D’you think she’ll ever be on [Ireland’s long-running chat show] The Late Late Show?” And also: “Will [national hero] Brendan Gleeson be here at the fashion show?” I think because I’ve been studying away from home they don’t see the level of production it takes to put on a runway show. With my previous degree [in Dublin], my mum was helping me sew everything, but because I’m here in London they don’t have an idea what’s going on. He just sees it as money money money! My dad runs a small sandwich shop and bakery in an industrial estate and he says: “You could be driving a Range Rover by now if you’d got into birthday cakes!”
Tell me a little more about your background…
I was born and bred in Dublin, Ireland, and I’ve got two younger sisters and Mum and Dad, all still in Malahide. I studied print and textiles at NCAD (the National College of Art and Design) in Dublin and then came to London to do the newly launched MA Menswear course at the University of Westminster. I was a bit nervous going on to a brand-new course that didn’t have a reputation yet, but we had Ike Rust on our team, and that was a whole different story. He came from the Royal College of Art, he was there for over 15 years, he was head of menswear and he left to start this brand-new course. He took designers Rosie Armstrong, Matthew Miller, Alex Mullins, Liam Hodges… he took all this staff with him and they were all our tutors.
We can’t avoid talking about your Irishness!
I’m Irish and I think we’re very patriotic compared to British people. My boyfriend’s English and in the World Cup, I was like: “Why aren’t you screaming from the rooftops?!” [when England got to the semifinals]. There’s a different attitude and I think because Ireland are so bad at everything it just makes it a bit more funny and it just has that light-heartedness. So when I moved away, I just realised: “Oh God, I’m so patriotic!” It’s even more so when you move away and you start meeting new cultures. I was interning at [London menswear house]Cottweiler and Ben, one of the designers, was always losing his laptop and I was like: “We need to pray to St Anthony!” [patron saint of lost things] and none of them had any idea what I was talking about. I thought everyone knew that! It’s those little things like that that I really wanted to hone in on and focus on. Then I started looking at my family photographs from back in the Nineties and when Ireland just got to the quarter-finals of the World Cup – not even the semifinals! – and it was all about just that sense of pride that my dad and all of his friends had.He’s my muse!
It’s a hugely strong statement, using the bright orange, white and green of the Irish flag.
And even more so if you knew me prior to that, because I am the Beige Queen! All my projects were beige. I don’t wear colour. Another reason I wanted to tie this all in with Ireland is that I wanted to get as many favours from people as possible! I found it difficult in the first year of my Masters, that all the London kids knew where to get all the stuff from, and I kind of felt a bit out of my depth. I didn’t know where to get this or that, so I thought: “How can I use this in my favour? What can I do to use my ties from home?” So the knitwear company is over the road from my dad’s sandwich shop, and I just went over to them one day, and said: “What do you think?” And they were just so open to doing all this, and they did it for me in natural yarns and I had the pieces dyed all green to match the flag.
I sense a sporty masculinity in your designs…
I literally look at a photo I like the mood of. I use the RTÉ archive (that’s our BBC) and I go and watch videos and the news from back then; if you ever have a spare hour it is hilarious! The news they used to do back then; they used to interview people on the side of the street to give their opinion. It’s just that rawness I’m trying to capture. There’s such an innocence. It’s not this club kid that goes out and parties… it’s the guys who are trying to make a few bob, like my dad and his friends. They’d buy something, put it in the back of the van and go round trying to sell it. My dad was always on the make; so in terms of clothing, I’d go through these videos and… pause: “He’s wearing a nice top”, and pause: “They’re nice shorts”. And that’s where I get my silhouettes from.
I notice you like the whole tucking-tops-into-shorts thing…
Yes, that’s where I took inspiration from: PE. Tucking it all in ’cos you’re going out to play.
Why menswear, not womenswear?
It’s not something I thought about too much; it’s just something I gravitate towards. It just so happens all the designers I like happen to be working in menswear, like Craig Green, Liam Hodges, Cottweiler; I just love them. I love going into a shop and trying on a Craig Green jacket; it’s just my style. I gravitate towards those silhouettes.
Did your graduate collection have a name?
No… Can we give it one now? “Ireland, I Love You!”
I think it would be great if there was a really cool Gaelic word… What’s the Gaelic word for “Pride”?
No idea! [looks at Google] “Bród!”
There we go! Give me five words to describe Ireland…
Beautiful… Friendly… Proud… Community… Drunk!