Una Burke with pupils or Tamon NS. Photo by Willie Donnellan
Fashion designer Úna Burke from Knockvicar, Co Roscommon may be working with celebrities and major global brands but she admits she is “still trying to catch up” on her success.
Úna Burke is an inspiration not only to those seeking a career in fashion but to people looking at an alternative career path.
The determined lady decided early on in her college education that she wanted to work exclusively with leather, which was rare and not in fashion at the time.
Leather work is in her blood, her grandfather John Francis Burke was a shoemaker (and a matchmaker) in Roscommon who made boots for the British army.
Úna's mother was a Home Economics teacher so she learned how to sew from an early age.
After finishing college in London, she got a job in retail to help pay off her student loans but exhibited her graduate project in 2009. Following this exhibition she had a call from Lady GaGa's team to commission a piece.
“I got thrown in the deep end,” she laughs “and I am still trying to catch up.”
She said it was “overwhelming” at first but she finds the fashion industry “fascinating.”
She said she thinks her brand works as it merges craft, fashion and art concepts.
Now she sells all over the world, she has celebrity clients such as Madonna, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Rachel Stevens and has dressed people in a variety of movies, theatre and exhibitions, most notable The Hunger Games movie and Taylor Swift's 'Bad Blood' video.
The designer is currently celebrating being stocked in Selfridges & Co, a high end Department Store in London.
Úna told the paper this is a golden opportunity for her brand and she is delighted “they approached us” which means she didn't go chasing them.
She has also worked with Brown Thomas when they display Irish designers and stocks a number of boutiques.
Úna Burke uses vegetable tanned bovine leather to create handbags, bracelets, belts, chokers, dresses, bodices and harnesses - all of which have a medieval style.
Úna is quite the “perfectionist” as she describes herself, she and her partner Emmett Herbert run every aspect of the business and she guarantees all pieces are crafted by her, she also runs the website www.unaburke.com where you can buy pieces direct and all her social media platforms.
Úna has showcased annually at Milan, Paris and London Fashion Weeks but has recently stopped and is now focused more on direct sales.
She said the reasons she has stopped the shows is because fashion houses are “not as brave” in their choices anymore.
Úna will be in the Bush Hotel for the Craft Ed Showcase on May 30 where the students of Tarmon NS will display their leather works.