Lisa Ryder | Totally dublin interview
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Totally dublin interview

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LISA RYDER INTERVIEW Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook

Lisa Ryder is the queen of printed leather handbags. Her distinctive and dynamic designs are a captivating snapshot into the imagination of the Mayo-based award-winning designer. Totally Dublin decided to find out how deep the flamingo hole goes.

What brought you to print design?

I did my BA in GMIT Galway, and I did my MA in the Glasgow School of Art. When I first started in GMIT, I gravitated towards fine art in paint. In first year you have to do modules in everything; fine art, sculpture, textiles, print – you name it. So I think I found a happy medium in print, because I know I could have gone down the fine art route but I didn’t want to create just one-off pieces. With my work you could say that I was repeating everything, and after about a year on fine art I sat down with my lecturers who suggested that I was more fashion-based or textile-based, and to think about what did I want to do once I left college.

What inspires your prints?

The inspiration for the design of my prints is everywhere in everyday life: I love Surrealist painters like Dali; I’m obsessed with an art movement in America called Pop Surrealism, Mark Ryden is quite big in it; even motifs on kimonos… anything and everything: patterns in nature, patterns in buildings, people walking in motion. I layer everything so when you see my prints at first you might just see the flamingo with an Art Deco repeat print in the background, but if you start to delve into them you’ll see more – people walking along the street, waves crashing against rocks, different things like that.


Why did you decide to apply these to handbags and accessories?

Well, when I started my business four years ago I was doing scarves. I was looking for an outlet. This was when I had come back from working in London as a freelance textile artist for fashion brands like Peter Jensen and Neurotica, where I had ended up doing more on the accessories section. I would design perhaps a scarf or a couple of objects within their collection. When I came back to Ireland I had already built an awareness of factories where I could get silk printed, so I started off just doing small scarves to see if people were interested in my designs or if people would they wear them. I then moved my manufacturing to Italy – as opposed to the UK – because I could get a better quality. I was introduced to some fantastic bag factories, where I was able to print onto leather. You could see it start to come out on the catwalk at that time, a few people were printing on leather, so it just organically happened and the first collection came out really well for me so I just kept going from there.

What is your new collection all about?

It’s about a flamingo and his world. A flamingo trip – an acid trip, I should say! His world, his dream world, the flamingo is put into a land with bonsai trees, ornate English gardens, Art Deco patterns, his psychedelic world. For example, my surreal world print was one of the first prints I designed for the collection – it’s the start of my character’s dream state. He’s on a floating island made out of bonsai trees and horizontal stripes. It’s the place that the flamingo uses as his platform to jump from world to world, entering each new world through the mirrors.I develop all of my print ideas using paint, pencil and line drawing, and then combine that with digital manipulation. When I apply my prints to my handbag shapes, I allow the print to dictate. This season I’ve introduced more playful prints, and I wanted to do a backpack shape as well as new handbag shape. It’s more structured and I think it plays nicely against the more childlike prints. Also, in the crafting of the bags, we make sure to cut each print so that when the bag is closed, the print has a flow and that each line matches up. I think these little details are what set my designs apart. They’re wearable pieces of art and are produced in limited numbers all hand-crafted in 100% leather.

You began your label in 2011 – how have you found it operating out of Ireland?

At the beginning boutiques were scared to stock me because I was different – I wasn’t an Orla Kiely bag, I wasn’t a Scandinavian design, I wasn’t simple. I still don’t know if they know what to do with me! In the future, the plan is to build a whole clothing collection based around the prints also, a one-stop shop. I have my key boutiques that buy, and loyal customers that will buy a bag a season. You want a collector, as they are like fine art pieces. I’m not for everybody, I’m not throwaway fashion.

Lisa Ryder is stocked in Marion Cuddy on the top floor of the Powerscourt Centre. You can see more of her work at

Words: Honor Fitzsimons

Images: Patrick McHugh

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