In this chapter the Creative Director, Karl Donoghue discusses the high-quality skins used each season and the inspiration he draws from the natural material
Why did you choose to specialise in this field?
Before graduating in 1994 I began to research the Nomadic Tribes of Tibet. I discovered they wrapped themselves in Tibetan lambskins to keep warm. A concept that goes back centuries. I visited a tannery to discover more about the process of turning an animal skin into a piece of leather. From that day I realised this material was very special to me.
How do you push the boundaries with this amazing material?
Each year I begin the collection with a trip to the Spanish tannery who I have worked with for more than 15 years. I always take a walk through the whole factory, to observe the processes and see the workers in action. The work they do is truly amazing with each skin going through many stages with lots of hand finishing. I am fortunate to work with the best technical team in the laboratory developing new colours for the season, testing new finishes. It is like a mixing pot of ideas. Sometimes what the tannery believes to be a failure can be beautiful and unique and the beginning of a new concept!
(Spanish Tannery – processes)
What is it about skin that inspires you?
From the day I discovered shearling in the early 1990’s I have found this very special material both fascinating and inspirational. There are so many different varieties of skin and finishing possibilities such as dyeing, embossing, printing, shearing and ironing. Each skin has its own unique qualities which is a wonderful thing in a world of mass production.
Could you briefly explain the difference between the skins you use?
The main shearlings are toscana, merinillo (baby merino), Merino and lacon. They all have very different qualities and wool types. For Example Toscana lambskin has a long open curly wool which when ironed becomes straight and glossy. Lacon tends to a be a lighter weight skin and the wool lighter and softer.
(Swatches of the different skins)
Are certain skins more suited to a particular silhouette?
I choose certain type skins for a design considering wool texture, weight, fluidity and bulkiness. Often combing two skins creates beautiful contrast of texture within one design.