Irish fashion designers refuse to be excluded from arts income scheme

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Irish fashion designers have accused Arts Minister Catherine Martin of unfairly cutting her clothing by excluding them from the new Basic Income for the Arts scheme.

he Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD) has vigorously opposed “the specific exclusion of self-employed Irish fashion designers, including milliners, jewelery and accessories designers, from the Government’s Basic Income Scheme for the arts, while film or opera costume designers and street performers and circus performers are eligible”.

“Independent Irish designers are also jugglers, seeking to balance the recovery from a series of devastating lockdowns with mounting costs for their creative businesses,” the CIFD – which has more than 40 members – said in a statement.

The council warned that “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, Helen Hayes and Leonora Ferguson, whose collaborations with glass artist Laura Quinn were presented at the Biot International Glass Festival in September.

“There is no justification for this decision,” CIFD President Eddie Shanahan said.

“Leonora Ferguson’s work has been featured at Madame Tussauds and the Victoria and Albert Museum. If Leonora calls herself a costume designer, she gets the money; if she calls herself a clothing designer and milliner, she doesn’t,” a- he declared.

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“Hazel Green hand painted on silk, but she could enjoy the scheme if she painted on canvas.

“The designers are absolutely mystified by this decision – and there are only two reasons why we were not considered: one is the lack of empathy towards us; and the other is that there is no knowledge of the work we are doing.

CIFD members say evidence of Irish fashion artistry is not new. They cite legendary Dublin-based fashion designer Sybil Connolly, whose fashion legacy is internationally recognized. It was 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.

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