With Ethiopian Airlines now flying direct from Los Angeles to Dublin, it's the perfect time to visit Ireland. The country's art and design scene is thriving, thanks to Irish Design 2015, a year-long initiative focusing on creativity and culture. The best way to immerse yourself? The Retreat, a nine-day luxury journey led by award-winning designer-to-the-stars Grania Murray who takes you into the homes and studios of some of the most iconic names in Irish design. This bucket list trip is filled with exclusive experiences you could never have on your own, and these designers just may become your new BFFs.
Knitwear by Lainey Keogh — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
She’s dressed everyone from Jackie O to Jennifer A, and is one of the most beloved names in knitwear. In fact, she even appears on an Irish postage stamp! A fashion rock star, Lainey Keogh is a true original, and her passion is obvious in every thread of her innovative – and highly-coveted – pieces. Spending time in her cozy Wicklow studio, surrounded by her sumptuous cashmere creations, is such a tactile experience, don’t even bother trying not to touch.
Sculptures by Rowan Gillespie — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
Considered a national treasure, Rowan Gillespie is pretty unique among his bronze-casting colleagues, working alone through every step of the painstaking process. He literally puts 100% into every piece, which is why his sculptures of the human condition resonate so profoundly. Just looking at some of his most celebrated work – “Famine,” “Migrants,” “Proclamation” – is an emotional voyage through Ireland's history and a stunning testament to the resilience of its people.
Clothing by Louise Kennedy — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
Named Irish Designer of the Year four times and also honored with a national postage stamp, Louise Kennedy is synonymous with elegance and sophistication. She designed the inaugural outfit for Ireland’s first female President, Mary Robinson, as well as uniforms for Aer Lingus and the first national judicial robes for the Irish Supreme Court. Many women’s fantasies have been fueled by the idea of trying on wedding dresses in Kennedy’s Bridal Room at 56 Merrion Square.
Handbag by Lisa Ryder — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
Those bold, vibrant, quirky handbags you see on the arms of some of the world’s most fashion-conscious women? They’re quintessential Lisa Ryder, whose uncompromising quality and keen eye have made them – and her signature silk scarves – into collectibles. Get ready to start your own collection.
Jewellery by Mette O'Connor — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
Walking through AMOC, Mette O’Connor’s jewellery shop in Greystones, is like being a kid in a candy store: you’ll want one of everything. Her designs reflect a deep respect for nature and are inspired by everything from leaves to seaweed. She twists and turns silver and gold into must-have necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings, adding rich gemstones that transform them into natural conversation pieces.
Fashion by Helen Steele — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
Working out of a duck hatchery in Monaghan where she uses the feathers to create wearable art, Helen Steele combines art and fashion in her own inimitable way. The former lead singer of a thrash metal band, Steele is a master of color and abstract print. Her artwork has been collected by A-listers like Diane von Furstenberg and Donald Sutherland, and her clothes have graced celebs from Jessie J to Rita Ora.
Furniture by Joseph Walsh — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
Self-taught craftsman Joseph Walsh creates one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture that combine form and function in the most unique and awe-inspiring ways. “How does he possibly make wood bend and curve and flow like that?” you will ask. And, if you’re lucky, he will show you. His studio in Cork has become one of the world’s leading studio workshops, with his hand-picked team rising to seemingly impossible design challenges.
Dresses by Helen Cody — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
Everything about Helen Cody’s gorgeous dresses quietly oozes refinery, making the women who wear them stand just a little taller and more confidently. But it’s her bespoke bridal collection that really shows off the designer’s romantic, feminine aesthetic. Fresh, modern and embellished with delicate ribbons, lace and crystals, these fluffy confections are truly the stuff of little girls’ dreams.
Art by Paul Flynn — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
Inspired by the landscape, the people, and the history of Ireland, Paul Flynn is a great believer in taking time to observe and appreciate the beauty all around. He captures those moments in breathtaking detail, whether he’s working in watercolors, acrylics, oils, portraits or sculptures. Regardless of the medium, he is a powerful visual artist whose stories beautifully portray his homeland.
Calnan & Anhoj
Metalwork by Calnan & Anhoj — Photo courtesy of The Retreat
There’s a surprising warmth and poignancy to the art of blacksmiths Michael Calnan and Gunvor Anhoj, especially when you hear them share the meaningful stories behind it. This award-winning husband and wife team works out of The Forge at the historic Russborough House, and it’s fascinating to watch them use hearth and anvil to work their magic on materials like iron, bronze, steel and copper.