A LARNE fashionista has featured in a fascinating new book that celebrates and explores the history of the linen industry in Ireland.
Award-winning designer Geraldine Connon, who for more than 20 years has been operating a highly successful made-to-measure fashion business out of her Glenarm Road home, travelled all the way to the Irish Embassy in Washington DC for the launch of ‘Irish People, Irish Linen’.
Penned by renowned American researcher and writer Kathleen Curtis Wilson, the lavishly illustrated book tells the story of the men and women who made Irish linen a global product and an international brand.
And nestled in the book’s final chapter, entitled An Enduring Legacy, the author details Geraldine’s contributions to the fashion industry and describes the passion that the 52-year-old puts in to each and every dress she makes.
Originally from Churchill Road in the town, Geraldine was a pupil at Larne Grammar School before going on to study fashion design at University of Ulster. She immediately knew that this was what she wanted to do with her life, but could never have dreamed how much success she would encounter along the way.
Geraldine has won the Satzenbrau Designer of the Year Award - later to be renamed Guinness Designer of the Year Award - four times. Her work has been seen in dozens of photo-shoots and catwalk shows from London to Australia.
When the Irish Linen plus Lycra blended fabric was developed in Northern Ireland, she was one of the designers asked to design clothing to test its uses and wearability.
In 2002, Geraldine’s designs were showcased at the private residence of the British ambassador in Paris and exhibited at Premiere Vision, the world’s largest exhibition for weavers of apparel and furnishings fabrics.
And earlier this year, Geraldine was invited to hold her very own fashion show at Hillsborough Castle, raising the fantastic sum of £20,000 for Save the Children in the process.
But for all her success, Geraldine prefers to remain out of the spotlight and let her work speak for itself.
Upon entering her home, it is clear that even after 26-years as a designer, Geraldine remains utterly devoted and passionate about what she does. Almost the entire ground floor has been transformed into a studio/workshop, and many of her past accolades adorn almost every inch of the walls. In fact, it is hard to tell where her home life ends and her work life begins, as the two worlds have virtually blended into one.
But Geraldine insisted that designing does not feel like a job to her. “I never could have imagined how much of my time would be taken up with my work. I would say it takes up about 90 per cent of my day, but I just love what I do”, she added.
What little free time she gets, Geraldine spends with her Portuguese husband Miguel Nedes, who is a successful sculptor.
Thankfully, she managed to free up a few days in her hectic schedule to attend the prestigious book launch and said she was thrilled to have been a part of it.
Accompanying Geraldine to the event was her close friend, Larne Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna, who spoke of her “immense pride” over the occasion.
She added: “I have always said that Geraldine is one of Ireland’s best kept fashion secrets. She has a unique and amazing talent and I was just bursting with pride for her, as she deserves all this recognition and then some.
“It is also great to have someone like Geraldine right on our doorstep, as it brings recognition for Larne as well. The book launch was a fantastic experience and I was delighted to share it with her.”
In ‘Irish People, Irish Linen’, Geraldine is described as having “an incredible work ethic, an eye for beauty, and a need to challenge herself, both visually and artistically, with every new design”.
The author also tells how Geraldine is descended from generations of tailors and seamstresses, and applauds her for staying close to her roots in Larne rather than moving to a big city to establish her career.