The Medical Independent talks to Irish designer Sinéad Roberts — founder and Director of The Costume Room. Sinéad has designed and created for everything from theatre to marketing companies before deciding to launch her own label in 2017. The Costume Room is a sustainable luxury clothing brand for women and men who want contemporary, bold, considered design. Sinéad is a hands-on designer with an unconventional approach to fashion. Her gender-neutral designs celebrate inclusiveness and diversity. She draws inspiration from nature, clean lines, the avant-garde, art deco, popular culture and its relationship with art and design. Sinéad Roberts is a member of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland. The Costume Room is a proud member of Design Ireland.
How important are titles to your work?
When I created my first collection in 2017, aptly named ‘The COLLECTION’, the titles of each piece were lovingly named and inspired by family and idols. I named The Lady K collar from The COLLECTION after my Mum whom we — her children — call Lady K. I am always working towards new designs being as sustainable as possible and finding a way to create and design for the future in a more sustainable way. After creating my first collection, I began to research where the fabric came from and how eco-friendly it was, or rather was not. This initiated my research quest with more sustainable fabric and locally-produced fabrics, which led me to replace all the cotton in my first collection with 100 per cent pure Irish linen produced by Emblem Weavers in Wexford. This in turn allowed me to revisit my coats from my first collection and The Gar is now made with linen and is quilted with natural wool wadding. I’m constantly trying to find more ways of being sustainable through my fabric choice and my practice so when I created COLLECTION II with hand-woven Donegal tweed by master weaver Eddie Doherty in Ardara, Co Donegal and 100 per cent pure Irish linen by Emblem Weavers in Wexford, it made perfect sense to me to include the name of the fabric in the title. The wearer then knows what they are wearing but also it is my tribute to the wonderful makers of the fabric.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my fourth collection. I design and create one collection per year. My work is about shape and form, I don’t start with a drawing, when I’m designing I manipulate/drape fabric until I find a shape or shapes that
interest me so it can take some time for an idea to unfold.
Where do you find your ideas?
I find my inspiration from everywhere and anything from architecture, sculpture, nature, films, books, music to good times.
Best piece of advice you have received?
“Sure all you can do is the best you can” — said repeatedly by my mum and dad.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
My dad, Matthias J Roberts. I really don’t have enough words to express my love and gratitude for the multi-talented, kind, loving, decent human that he is. Anyone who meets him knows what I’m talking about. He has more life in him than most people I meet. His ‘can-do’ attitude; his sense of humour; his resourcefulness; his work ethic; his enthusiasm for life; his love and dedication to his family are inspiring.
Who were the major influences in your life growing up?
I grew up in a very creative household with my parents, my three brothers and my four sisters always playing instruments and making music or making things or fixing things, so I was always surrounded by creativity, which I will be forever grateful for. Growing up in Dublin with country parents, naturally my parents really wanted us to share their values and their love for space. Where I grew up we were surrounded by fields and had horses and dogs and all sorts of animals though the years. There was lots of space and we were encouraged to spend time outside. All this had a huge impact on me and the way I create now. Coming from a family of makers and learning skills from different siblings really helped grow my curiosity of how things were made. We always had a sewing machine in our house and I’m very thankful to my mum, who taught me how to sew all those years ago as it started quite the love affair.
Something you believed to be true, but wasn’t?
There were lots of things. I think I was a fairly gullible kid, if you said something to be true, I just believed with no question. Like when older people used to say to you ‘don’t cross your eyes like that or don’t make a face, if the wind changes direction you’ll stay like that’, I believed that for way too long.