Robyn Lynch Designs for Ireland, Her Family, and Longevity

Hypebeast speaks to the designer ahead of her FW23 London Fashion Week show to learn more about the upcoming collection.

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Breaking into the fashion world is hard enough, let alone recontextualizing it. But that’s the goal for Robyn Lynch, the Dublin-born, East London-based menswear designer whose shows are hotly becoming top billing on the London Fashion Week calendar. And what’s the key to her success? Creating from the heart.

Lynch has a design lexicon that’s drawn from her home of Ireland and the family that’s always been by her side – whether they “get it” or not. For Spring/Summer 2023, she scanned her dad’s old football jerseys and manipulated them across T-shirts, and this season, she pays homage to her dad’s collection of Geox shoes with custom pairs gracing her “boys’” feet as they walk the runway. 

Lynch – who is also one of this year’s Woolmark Prize finalists – starts her collections with a distinct narrative in mind each time. Her home is where her heart is, and continues to serve as the central inspiration for her clothing; it’s why her Fall/Winter 2023 collection is green, covered in sheep, shamrocks and harps. 

To understand more about her heartfelt process, Hypebeast visited Robyn Lynch at her East London studio. Read on to find out where her other inspirations come from, how she has utilized Woolmark-approved Merino wool to the max, and how her dad is one of her biggest inspirations ahead of the show’s debut this weekend at London Fashion Week

Hypebeast: Talk me through how you start building your collection.

Robyn Lynch: I think I’m more product focused and I look at the technical elements, rather than someone who focuses on the story. I think that comes second. I think of it quite literally, what fabrics I have, what I’m buying, what the composition is, the supplier, and then the story comes from that. I get my yarn colors for the season and then I’ll see. That’s my approach, and that’s why I don’t name anything. Titles are story-focused. Sometimes I don’t know what I have to say.

What is the story this season?

To be part of Woolmark, we had to make a capsule collection [using Woolmark materials] or adapt its theme of “Dialogue.” Because I use so much Merino wool anyway, I thought I might as well merge the two and explore what the theme “Dialogue” means. I never think like that, I’m not conceptual to that level of degree.

But, okay. “Dialogue.” What are we trying to say? We were toying on the notion of presumptions and preconceptions. Dialogue can have many different meanings. It’s Irish-centric, so we thought: what are the most generalized things you think of when you think of Ireland? The color green, shamrocks, céilí [a traditional Irish dance], all these tacky things you find on eBay, everything that stereotypes our culture so much. 

And how is this translated into the FW23 collection?

We leaned into it rather than trying to fight it. Normally I do four colors, but this time we just did green and we broke it into four shades. We dived deep into the color. 

We brought the smileys through from last season’s T-shirt, but now instead of it saying “Where’s the acid party?” it says “Where’s the céilí?”. We photoshopped in and drew a harp, we manipulated it to make it look like it was playing the harp. 

Is it difficult to reclaim these stereotypes?

There’s a line that you can cross and we just have to keep checking ourselves. We check if it’s gone too naff. It’s very borderline to the max. But we hone it back in, we have a super Irish graphic and then strip it back with a simple look with a jacket that speaks for itself. 

But I love it. I went home at Christmas and did a pop-up, I didn’t expect it to be that good. So many people came, even if they couldn’t afford something, but they came on their lunch break and sent pictures to their friends. I felt like, for the first time, “holy shit I’ve never done anything like that.” 

How do these experiences translate in the space that is London Fashion Week?

I surround myself with all my Irish friends and my team, so even though I’m working hard away it feels more like a camaraderie kind of thing. My automatic thing when I’m thinking is: who can we bring in? So I’ve been working with the musician Róisín Berkeley, we bring them in to amplify that. 

There’s such a strong community here in London, but when I went home it was the first time I thought, “ah, there is a culture here.” My generation – whether it was money or something – all left Ireland to come here. Everyone is now staying there. It now feels like a culture is potentially happening here. 

How do camaraderie and culture help you connect to this collection?

I feel all those things and the music is something that I’ve enjoyed the most. Because we did the sales first, I’ve had the time to make the show as powerful as possible, especially with Róisín’s performance. I feel like, with the Woolmark Prize, I’ve educated myself a bit more on the fabrications, developments and properties that Merino wool in particular has. 

For example, I would usually use cotton for [certain] numbers, but I sourced Merino instead. We’ve done polyester bouclé before, but now it is 100% Merino wool. I’ve spent my time getting nicer fabrics to develop my knitwear. I’ve properly learned about the fabrics, tension et cetera, so for me, this progression in knitwear is something I am happy with. 

Has being a finalist for the Woolmark Prize taught you anything else?

Yeah, definitely. I didn’t know any of this stuff. The wool is stunning. 

For fleeces, I would always use polyester, but now it’s woolen and from Germany. But ocean-sourced recycled plastic bottles – SEAQUAL – is used inside the jacket, and it’s Pantone-dyed to match the yarn in Leicester.

How do you want people to understand that this collection is technically different from your previous collections?

There’s a development too with the silhouette, and because we’ve had the time we’ve made it the best – we’ve got additional pieces to fill what was missing. 

But not to harp on about the music, but I think there’s a serious tone to these pieces and a seriousness to… an elevation… the mood.

So why have you swapped from rave beats to a classic music performance?

I met Róisín at a tiny festival off the west coast of Ireland, it’s an experience and it’s about what you can contribute – a talent or a talk, and you get fed and watered for the weekend. An ex-NOMA Copenhagen chef, who’s Irish, did a whole thing on the sea on stone beds with gas flame fires and cooked us a whole dinner. Róisín played a set before his dinner and I thought: I’ve never done anything like that. She played the set and it was on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, but she’s in a full Stone Island tracksuit and Salomons. 

That’s the energy that I want to celebrate. 

That’s very you. 

Exactly, she embodies everything I’m trying to do. To make it relevant but to celebrate culture. She was perfect. But I still want the boys to walk fast and strong, it’ll be nice to have the juxtaposition between the two, as if they’re walking into nothing as she dips into the higher notes. 

Does this show feel different?

Before felt less real. There’s less risk. But now it’s a business, I have wages to pay, rent to pay, a studio to pay for, so my outlook is switched on. It’s less about fun and more about seriousness. 

What’s the purpose? I love doing a fashion show, but there must be ways we can complement this. I focused all my energy on two times a year. But it’s only content twice a year, so now I’m looking at how we can give it longevity and life. 

We’ve gone from Robyn Lynch the designer to Robyn Lynch the brand.

Yeah – there’s more focus on that. Some of the pieces might be a bit simpler, but the fabrication is good, and the zippers are good quality, you know what I mean?

And as always, your collections bring in references to your family. In the past, you scanned your dad’s football jerseys. What is the touchpoint this season?

My family is not in fashion whatsoever and they have no relevance to it at all. So for them, their relevance is flying over here two times a year to watch the show, or when I get to work with brands like Crocs and Columbia Sportswear. This is when they can connect to it. 

This year, the GEOX shoes are for him. Every year he asks, “Please, GEOX, when are you going to work with GEOX? They’re Italian, they’re slim on the foot, they’re light.” He could be a GEOX salesman, he has every single pair in every single color lined up outside the hallway at home. 

So I looked into this and I got a load of shoes on eBay. I found one from 2001 – it’s grand, made in Italy, real leather. That’s what people are embodying now for a shoe. They’re the OG. I love picking the dark horse, I hate collaborating with the obvious choice. I feel like GEOX is not an obvious choice. 

And GEOX really accents the collection – it’s small-town boy, a bit endearing.

They’re not uber-trendy.

And then, suddenly when it’s in the context of London, it’s really cool.

Yes! Taking something that is not cool – like our T-shirt with a load of sheep on it – and then putting it in this setting, takes it somewhere. GEOX has only ever collaborated with RedBull and Spider-Man… they’re cool. I’d love to do an actual collaboration on them. 

That’s the connection, to always tie it back to family. It’s a huge part of what I do, I drew so much inspiration from them. I link it back to my dad for a full 360 moment. He has a pair on for the front row, he’s gone and bought himself a matching top for the show.

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