independent.ie- This time last year, fashion designer Ruedi Maguire, founder of Ruedi, was knee-deep in medical scrubs. Now, he has just launched his first made-to-order collection, emerging butterfly-like from the lockdown cocoon with clothes full of powerful feminine energy, bold colour pops and exaggerated silhouettes for a post-pandemic world.
The collection features oversized sleeves, elongated cuffs and elements of menswear tailoring — a welcome antithesis to the loungewear we’ve all been living in. His leather corset top is proving popular, as is his twist on the classic white shirt. The bold yellow in the collection is reminiscent of the first dress Maguire ever sold as a graduate in fashion management, having cut his teeth in an Irish dancing costume factory in Belfast.
“I am conscious to keep things modern, but with a nod to the classic,” says the designer, who appeared on RTÉ’s inclusive fashion show The Fitting Room in 2019, and is quietly spoken, funny and thoughtful. “I always start designing with fabric in mind, so I’ve used double poplin cotton, crepe fabrics, premium leather that will age beautifully over time, silk organza and guipure lace.”
As a teenager growing up in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, Ruedi used clothing to express his creativity but also, on consideration, to deflect attention from himself in a conservative time and place. “There’s this thing I know they won’t like about me, probably in my case being gay, but if I dress in a certain way they’ll focus on that and not the other thing — you’re not even conscious you’re doing it,” he says of his younger years.
“I would rip up my trousers and pin them all together and there wasn’t a day that went by that there wasn’t a comment made about me. In Cookstown in the 1990s it was your Ben Sherman shirt, your Wrangler jeans and desert boots, and if you wore anything else, you stuck out like a sore thumb. I was very happy to do that. I wouldn’t say I’m the most confident person but I just don’t take fashion that seriously — it’s not the end of the world if things don’t work out.”
RTÉ’s The Fitting Room saw him design outfits for guests who struggled physically or emotionally to find the right clothing. “The Fitting Room was a fantastic experience. It was so rewarding to be able to help people who had real challenges with fashion. It was a challenge in that I had never done menswear before but I was thrilled that I managed to get one of the men into a kilt,” he says. “Their comfort zones were very different to mine, so there is a long way to go in terms of changing people’s perceptions of what they can and can’t wear.”
While the pandemic meant a dip in business for Maguire, who is best known for his made-to-measure occasion wear, he says that it also provided time for him to consider his new collection.
Working with made-to-measure clients has, he says, provided insight into what customers want, desire and need in their wardrobes.
This collection, titled ‘Re-wired’, is his attempt to re-evaluate the thinking around the inherent value of clothing. “It’s about thinking more about what goes into a piece of clothing: the fabric, the way it’s cut, who made it and why it will last longer. Trends are so instant and rapid now thanks to social media — a celebrity or influencer will wear a piece and suddenly everyone wants it. I think that designers are put under extreme pressure, sometimes producing 12 collections a year. It almost feels like a natural progression for fashion to slow down.”
Maguire says that the fashion industry has become unrecognisable since he worked in a clothes shop as a teenager and put aside a portion of his wages each week to buy a denim jacket or a pair of jeans.
“The fashion cycle has become so accelerated that it’s almost impossible for people to keep up. I think people are starting to become more savvy about individual style.”
While not everyone can afford a €450 shirt, Maguire insists that his collection is about investing in key pieces that bring joy and functionality. “I understand that people cannot spend a fortune on all their clothing but it is about investing in things that you know you are going to wear a lot and blending those items with your high-street finds.”
Known for his own flamboyant style, ‘classic’ takes on a whole different meaning when it comes to Ruedi Maguire. “Me being me, I can’t design a velour tracksuit,” he laughs. “There’s a casual sense to the collection but it’s elevated — I’m not saying you’ll be wearing these clothes to a kid’s birthday party.”
At the start of the pandemic, Maguire and his partner Paul voluntarily made over 600 sets of scrubs for healthcare workers across the North. Maguire deflects any praise for this work, preferring to commend those who donated money for the fabric. “I can’t sit still so I couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing. The reality was that our healthcare workers needed clothing and I was able to make it — it was definitely helping me as well as the community.”
With his Re-wired collection, he says he is happy to be at a point where “people can start to envisage fabulous events and get back to feeling great again. I know how fashion can elevate your mood and make you feel totally different. Personally I can’t wait to get completely glam and go for it — no holds barred.”