Rubbing shoulders with the world’s most stylish people isn’t something I ever aspired to do. It simply came with the territory once I found myself in fashion’s trenches, reporting on a world inhabited by those with a heightened sense of aesthetics. And because I’ve met so many different types of stylish people, I’m often asked who my own personal style heroes are—who I’m inspired by, and who’s taught me the most. High on the list is a Dublin-based designer who I was blessed to meet in the early ‘90s, as a fellow judge at an international student design competition. She not only bowled me over with her warmth and spirited personality—“must-haves” for anyone to qualify as uber stylish in my book—but there was a profound elegance about her that I’ never before had the chance to witness at such close range. Yes, everything she sports and the garments she designs are divine. But this is someone whose personal style is a kind of poetry in motion: at once striking and soothing, modern yet romantic, simple but sensational. She’s always struck me as one of the best examples of a woman who wears the clothes—the clothes never wear her.
Meet Louise Kennedy, one of Ireland’s most celebrated designers who’s dressed the likes of Anjelica Huston, Andie MacDowell, Emma Thompson and Meryl Streep, and who’s considered Irish fashion royalty in her native land. Originally from Tipperary, Kennedy founded her label back in 1983, ( www.louisekennedy.com) and has become famous for her exquisite tailoring, sumptuous fabrications, and chic, sophisticated day and evening wear. She recently opened a bridal salon in her fantastic Georgian townhouse shop in Dublin’s Merrion Square, that, as they say in less posh circles, is to-die-for. Kennedy’s stellar, classic clothing is sold throughout the UK, with her own signature shop in London’s Belgravia district having become a destination for some of Britain’s most sophisticated, well-heeled fashionistas. Kennedy also does a range of crystal for Tipperary crystal (www.tipperarycrystal.com), and designs spectacular chandeliers, a example of which hangs in the perfumery department of Harrods in London.
Citing style icons as diverse as Iman, HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, and Lauren Hutton, Kennedy, in her early ‘50s, is grace personified. Besides the quality creations she designs and wears—and she is her own best muse—she adore shopping in Paris, London, and New York. She also has a penchant for fine vintage jewelry and is a regular customer at John Farrington Antiques on Dublin’s Drury St. (www.johnfarringtonantiques.com) One of the most important things that Kennedy has taught me over the years is that less is often more: Better to invest in one gorgeous piece of jewellery than have umpteen different cheap pieces that you won’t likely treasure. Special pieces that you truly value can become your signature statements, and if they’re well designed and well made, they’ll truly hold their value. A big fan of great accessories and shoes, Kennedy cites the likes of Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik among her favourite shoe designers, and besides what Hermes has to offer, loves bags and luggage by Tanner Krolle (www.tannerkorlle.com), who designs custom bags for Queen Elizabeth, among others.
Though this column usually celebrates those who manage to dress on a limited budget (and I have great respect for the creativity inherent in that), every once in a while, it’s fun to see what someone with access to high quality sartorial fare is inspired by, and how they put it all together. Call it aspirational, but in my style fantasy world, I only half-jokingly say that I want to have Louise Kennedy’s sense of style when I ‘grow up’! Earlier this year, chatting with Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey, Louise’s name came up in conversation. Bailey had the pleasure of having tea with Louise in New York, and the powerful fashion editor was blown away. “She’s just the most elegant woman,” marveled Bailey. “Her attention to detail is impeccable. I love the way Louise dresses,” she told me. All I could do was concur. Kennedy is one talented grande dame who’s always spot on. The day I caught up with in her Belgravia boutique in London she was wearing a midnight jersey dress of her own design, black patent heels by Christian Louboutin, a Theo Fennell diamond perfume ampoule pendant, vintage diamond pear drop earrings from John Farrington’s, and a Fred Muller Long Island watch.
What is your personal style philosophy?
I always invest in my classic luxurious monotone shapes, which can be updated seamlessly from season to season.
What are your 3 most treasured pieces of clothing?
A long, midnight, column jersey evening gown with kimono sleeves, a black, double-face cashmere duster coat, and one-shouldered silk jeweled kaftan.
Top 3 favourite accessories?
A black cashmere wrap with suede tassel detail, a Tanner Krolle crocodile bag, and a jeweled evening belt.
What’s your idea of a fashion faux pas?
Garments that don’t fit correctly, and over accessorizing.
Describe your “dressed down” look.
I adore great fitting white t-shirts, skinny jeans by Adriano Goldschmield, Chanel pumps and fitted tailored blazers.
Greatest fashion lesson?
It’s about the importance of investing in classic timeless accessories. A Birkin bag from Hermes will take you through so many fashion years and is a great legacy piece to pass on.
Best style advice??
Know what shapes and styles suit your body form. And find a trust worthy sales assistant who knows your lifestyle and will always be honest.