Meet Designing Irish
By Irish America Staff
September / October 2018
Irish America celebrated its 2018 Power Women in New York this spring with the induction of six phenomenal leaders of business, journalism, and politics.
Irish America inducted six amazing women – three Irish-born and three Irish-American – into the magazine’s Power Women group on the morning of May 17, 2018.
The gathering, at the Bank of Ireland Startlab in New York City, was co-hosted by #WearingIrish, a movement founded in 2016 by Margaret Molloy that connects Irish designers with American entrepreneurs, clients, and potential partners.
Power Woman and Bloomberg TV anchor Vonnie Quinn, a native of County Limerick, has her own Irish connection to fashion in that her cousin Vonnie Reynolds, was one of Ireland’s foremost designers. She noted that the very dress she was wearing was, in fact, a Vonnie Reynolds creation from the 1980s. Quinn said that she was most proud of the fact that Ireland, “despite it’s conservative past, has now shown itself to be at the forefront of everything that’s inclusive and transnational.”
Audrey Hendley, also an Irish immigrant, who is the president of American Express Travel and Lifestyle Services, focused on the Irish drive and ability to overcome and hearkened “back to those early days, when it took a lot of brute force determination, to get things over the line, and to achieve your goals, and to actually articulate your goals to yourself.” She also talked about the Irish tradition of hospitality which is key factor in the travel industry, saying: “I have access to a worldwide network Irish people, who open up their hearts, their minds, and even their homes to each other.”
Irish American Jenny Rooney, who has been editor of the CMO Network at Forbes for seven years and counting, went into the important influence Irish writers had on her intellectual growth. “The rich tradition of storytelling that’s so core to Irish culture formed the foundation of, certainly my education, and then, as a journalist, my career,” she reflected. “I was an English literature and creative writing major in college, and that found me poring over the tomes of the likes of Joyce and Wilde and Beckett, even Faulkner and O’Neill.”
New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, also an Irish American, remarked, “I constantly find reasons to talk about – almost on a daily basis – the trials and tribulations faced by my grandparents when they made that journey from Ireland, fleeing poverty like so many millions did, coming here with nothing but the shirts on their backs, and starting as domestics in Chicago.” Hochul also discussed her own family’s role in keeping the tradition of Irish apparel alive, through her mother’s small business selling exclusively, authentically Irish textiles. “She sold fisherman’s sweaters, and she sold the beautiful capes, and fabrics,” she elaborated, “so this was part of our opportunity to showcase – probably 35 to 40 years ago – the work of Irish designers.”
Inductee Anne Keating, who joined the WearingIrish initiative after retiring from her position as a senior vice president at Bloomingdale’s, asserted that her Tyrone-born great-grandfather, Patrick Short, established her family’s connection to the fashion industry. “He immigrated to America and went on to have a successful business as a shirt maker. The New York tax records for 1864 says his business was listed at 692 Broadway, and he had an inventory of 117 shirts with a value of $439. I guess that was the beginning of my retail career.” Inductee Deirdre Quinn, who is the founder and CEO of Lafayette 148, a women’s fashion company, recalled her experience as a first-generation Irish American. “My parents were born in Northern Ireland,” she told the group. “And they certainly made sure that as we grew up, we spent our summers in Ireland, so that we would remember where we came from, and I always will appreciate that. My parents lived the American Dream – the ability to come here, to work hard, and to have a better life. And my dad absolutely didn’t want me to be in the fashion business. He told me that Irish people don’t belong in the fashion business, but I had to follow my own dream.” ♦