Her gloves are all over the new House of Gucci movie that hits cinemas next Friday, in which Lady Gaga, who plays Patrizia Reggiani, can be seen wearing them in more than 20 outfits in the film. It’s a big endorsement for the Irish designer Paula Rowan whose reputation for originality is growing internationally.
“Gucci started as a small leather goods company – and so did I in 2008 when I launched my first glove collection,” she notes, adding that her ambition is to become a global glove brand recognised everywhere. And why not? Rihanna is the latest celebrity to be photographed in Rowan gloves, while in the current issues of British and Italian Vogue, Lady Gaga is photographed wearing elbow-length Rowan creations very dramatically and posting images of them on her Instagram handle.
“Paula’s mind is like a volcano,” says one of her Italian suppliers in Naples, well used to dealing with the more daring designs she proposes that push the boundaries of what could be called arm hosiery. Sitting in Rowan’s elegant apartment in Seapoint, Co Dublin, which has big windows that overlook the sea – a constant source of inspiration – she opens box after box of her most innovative and daring work to date. It marries the concept of sleeves with gloves in extraordinary ways.
Irish glove designer Paula Rowan
“Gloves have always been seen as accessories rather than clothing – I am looking at gloves and hands in a different way,” she points out, stretching a long black leather fingerless glove along her arm that spreads out over the shoulder into a mini cape. Her friend, Fionnuala Sherry, the well-known violinist, will be wearing this for her up-and-coming concert tour this month in Norway and later in Asia.
“There are so many things you can do with leather, it is so easy to be creative with it and to manipulate it,” she says displaying so many variations on the sleeve design and silhouette, some billowing affairs, other ruched or layered. These all draw from the experience of making gloves and thinking about dressing the whole arm itself.
“You can still see the silhouette of the arm in a tube of leather and make it sit with panelling, ruching and elastic with enough leeway for a shirt sleeve underneath,” she says. “My creative process is probably very different from most; I keep a sketchbook with ideas drawn from things I see – everything from a piece of art, a scene from a movie or a catwalk image – I am always looking at shapes,” she says.
There are statement shearling mittens one inside another, little fingerless gloves, cuffs, leather gloves with black lace, gloves with enormous bows, some trimmed with Mongolian fur, others with shiny eel skin. “What I like is that the leather is used to make buttons and every scrap is used so there is no waste. I grew up in a house where clothes were handed down and nothing was wasted – everything was used. I have been making things since I was a kid and you can create something extra from something ordinary. I am looking at gloves and the hand in a different way and letting my mind go wild. I want to be the Jimmy Choo of the glove world.”
These pieces – more than 40, each one individual – are like nothing you have ever seen before and though not necessarily commercial, allow free rein to her creativity and imagination. One pair of gauntlets allows for a dog lead inside the glove, another uses black and white striped cowhide on black cutaway gloves for a striking effect. “A lot of these prototypes are trial and error – but if you have a classic coat, you can then add drama on the hand. And we use our hands, we speak with our hands.”
Montserrat gloves €435, puff sleeve biker jacket €1,380 by Simone Rocha at Havana, slip dress €350 by Marie Jo Laine at Susan Hunter
Rowan's gloves can be bought online at paularowan.com, in her Westbury centre shop and in various stockists around the country.
Photography: Perry Ogden; stylist: Paula Hughes; model: Ami Jackson @NotAnotherIntl; make-up: Sarah Jane Lanagan; hair: Jake Ryan@NotAnotherIntl
By Deirdre McQuillan, The Irish Times.