Two young Irish designers have made an impression on the world stage of fashion at the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards in New York.

The designers Leigh Gallagher from Derry and Joan Hickson from Limerick fought off stiff competition from all over the world to reach the final, which is seen as a showcase for budding young designers.

‘Liberation’ was the theme for this year’s awards and the designs were certainly that. The competition is all about challenge and the designers had to come up with an avant-garde design that is also commercial.

Leigh Gallagher interpreted the brief in an abstract way, taking her inspiration from how a soul is liberated from the body after death. Joan Hickson, working with a traditional Irish wool and linen mix says

As I was doing menswear I just thought well liberation, liberate men, liberate men’s fashion

One of the judges, designer John Rocha, believes the awards give the students the opportunity to show what they can do on the world stage but more importantly they are also a chance for them to make some new friends.   

An RTÉ News report by Eileen Whelan broadcast on 17 November 2000.