UNBEKNOWNST to most of us, right now a raw energy is gaining momentum behind the scenes at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Thomas Street, Dublin.
In just five weeks, 13 fashion design students and five textile design students will graduate and be thrust intoan industry that is always growing and so always seeking new talent. But it is also an industry that is among the most ruthless, where only the very, very determined succeed. If they are incredibly, amazingly lucky.
A student scene is essential to the continued growth and evolution of our fashion industry. It is easy to look at the sometimes crazy student creations and dismiss them with the comment "Who would wear that?!"
But then the illustrious big names of the high fashion industry, such as Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquiere, also throw out weird ideas at times, and then two years later the high street is covered in that "weird look". It is called original thought and reinvention, and it resultsin evolution.
Fashion is all about evolution and fresh ideas, so there is a constant need to nurture the young talent that is emerging through the ranks. Design has been identified as key to the survival of the Irish clothing industry. We need young, experimental designers with flamboyance to keep our industry vital.
But despite the diversity of options, the general consensus is that it remains necessary for our fashion graduates to head overseas, to gain experience, because there just aren't enough opportunities for them to get that kind of skilled work experience here.
Angela Woods, head of the fashion faculty at NCAD, told me: "We can't compete with high-street fashion storesand labels here in Ireland. The students must concentrate on the high-end aspects of design to make a mark. That often means going to London, Paris, Milan, and working in fashion houses like Galliano togain experience."
It seems a pity that we must export our most creative and best, but I am told that going abroad and gaining experience teaches these young people what they are really going to need to learn if they are to have a career in fashion: skills, strength of character and a determination to succeed against the odds.
Design college is like kindergarten on their career paths, although I know the NCAD students are working so hard already they don't believe it could get any worse!
I met some of the students to see what their catwalk show was going to throw out in a few weeks' time.
Elizabeth Kearns, one of this year's fashion design graduates, loves working with fabrics such as denim to provide structure, and "sheers" such as raw silk for an oversized, relaxed look. "Everyone loves denim and has it in their wardrobe; I wanted to use it in a different way - making denim glamorous by designing garments that can cross over from everyday wearable pieces into evening wear."
Elizabeth is one of four students also chosen as a finalist for the annual Persil/Aware Fashion Awards that will be judged on the Late Late Show on Friday.
Another designer who caught my eye was Clare Drury, who is part of the "new breed" of Irish fashion designers, pushing forward with her cutting edge and untraditional designs. Clare creates garments that can be worn in different ways, by reversing a dress and wearing it - in simple terms; upside down you can capture two different looks from the one garment!
Bronagh O'Connor has made her entire collectionout of recycled materials; Oxfam wedding dresses, fisherman's rope, even an old leather couch.
But it's not just the fashion design students who are turning out interesting fashion. Joan King, a textile design student who equally loves fashion design, has created a very fashion-orientated occasion wear range. Luxurious silk and satin viscose dresses constructed out of fabric she has screen-printed, digitally enhanced and applied a technique called devore or "burnout" effects in fabric blends, and is used by top designers to create fabulous textures on an otherwise flat fabric.
Carla Johnson has also incorporated the devore technique on silk and velvetfabrics, with overlayingsilkscreen prints that arereminiscent of Roberto Cavalli. Gorgeous!
Design schools such as NCAD offer hope and introduction to talent, both to students and to our industry. Their graduates become our most valuable resources in helping to keep our industry vital and strong.
We wish everyone the best on graduation, and we hope after a few years abroad they come back and prove us right - that they are brilliant and worth it!