FASHION Celebrated knitwear designer Lisa Shawgi visits Westport

Soft sensuality is a Lisa Shawgi trademark.?Pic: German Collins
Soft sensuality is a Lisa Shawgi trademark.?Pic: German Collins

It’s knitwear, but not as you know it

Ciara Moynihan

Clothing boutique Liberties, The Quay, Westport, is hosting another of its ‘Meet the Designer’ days, giving its customers a chance to meet the creative minds behind the designer clothes it stocks. Previous designers hosted by the boutique have included Jennifer Rothwell, Mary Grant and Heather Finn. Now it’s the turn of Lisa Shawgi. The young designer will be visiting this Saturday, June 18, from 1pm onwards, and the occasion will also mark the first public showing of her autumn collection.
A knitwear designer of Irish and Egyptian/Sudanese parentage, Shawgi spent most of her childhood in the Sudan before moving to Dublin in 1995, and she often uses the juxtaposition of both cultures as an inspiration for her creations.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Shawgi explained that her autumn collection is ‘all about sensuality and feminine curves’.  In fact, this emphasis on femininity and sensuality has become the trademark of her collections. Colour and texture are key elements in creating her soft, sensual knitted fabrics, with attention to detail and beautifully finished features lending an eye-catching contemporary edge. But contemporary certainly does not mean wacky and unwearable Gaultier-esque creations for this designer – no catwalk-only pieces for her: “I love simple, classic, tailored shapes.” The idea is that any woman, no matter what her shape, will be comfortable in a Lisa Shawgi piece.
Shawgi also explained the autumn collection will see a greater emphasis on luxurious, soft fabrics – and what could be more soft, more luxurious than cashmere. “There are two sides to  my autumn collection this year – 100 per cent cashmere pieces, and a new yarn I found in Italy, a wonderful blend of 30 per cent cashmere, 70 per cent Merino wool.” This new yarn is a little thicker, which Shawgi excitedly acknowledged is perfect for an autumn collection, which should reintroduce warmth into the wardrobe.
This increased use of luxury fabrics marks a move away from her earlier work, which for a period focused on using acrylics and cottons. Why the move? “It’s all about what works best for the designs,” she said.
Another ‘two-sided’ aspect to her new collection is her emphasis on both colour and patterns. Shawgi revealed that she is experimenting in using both in different ways, with geometric patterns to feature greatly – no doubt another nod to her North African heritage.   
She graduated from the National College of Art and Design in 2005 with a BA in Fashion Design. It was here in her final year that Shawgi discovered her love of knitwear and its endless abilities to create her own distinctive style. With this new found passion she went on to swoop three awards for one of her unique knitted creations in the RDS National Crafts Competition.
After leaving NCAD, Shawgi went on to work for designers such as Lainey Keogh and Vera Wang, where she further developed her design and technical skills along with involving herself in the everyday running of the studios. Shawgi later devoted all of her efforts in launching her own knitwear label in 2008.
Reviewing her work last October, Sunday Independent fashion editor Constance Harris referred to Shawgi as ‘an originator’, describing her designs as ‘richly colourful, evocative, sensual and flattering’, while Irish Times fashion editor Deirdre McQuillan describes her as a designer ‘steadily developing a distinctive, individual look’.
The Lisa Shawgi label has also been featured in Tatler, Image, Prudence, the Sunday Business Post, RTÉ’s Nationwide, TV3’s Ireland AM and The Crafts Council of Ireland’s ‘Stories in The Making’.
Harris’s review of Shawgi’s work ended with a simple “Lisa Shawgi is a find.” That’s a fact. If you have yet to make the discovery, a trip to Liberties this weekend is a must.

Lisa Shawgi will be present to showcase her autumn collection at Liberties’ Meet the Designer Day this Saturday, June 18. Liberties is located at The Quay, Westport, and the event starts at 1pm.

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