Ahead of her S/S 22 menswear collection reveal, designer Robyn Lynch sent round a meme featuring her friends from Ireland. Dug up from the depths of Facebook, Lynch's mates are lit up in their teens by the flash of an early noughtie's mobile phone: the central lad grinning from ear to ear dons a Columbia windbreaker. Since making her runway debut with the infamous talent incubator Fashion East back in 2019, season upon season Lynch has given a nod to the years she spent growing up in Ireland. On the final day of London Fashion Week, the designer presented a collaboration with the outerwear brand first idolised in her youth.
Creating her own Irish holiday camp logo for S/S 20 and a print inspired by the Aertel-Irish Feletext channel a season later, Lynch quickly became recognised for having a knack for smart design which played on both nostalgia and modern sportswear, with craftsmanship which was far superior to the average run of the mill. Many will remember the head-to-toe colour blocking of her first collections, and the spliced Aran knits and nylon tops which are still core items for the brand today. But don't mistake this designer for a one trick pony. Presenting a capsule of eleven looks, S/S 22 is her most mature collection to date. Inspired by a teenage lust for the once not-so-fashionable label Columbia, which she describes over Zoom as having been 'our unofficial school jacket', Lynch placed a focus this season on pushing outerwear and making the most out of the technical finishings on the Columbia surplus items she worked with - she tells me one jacket has 13 pockets. Despite the current trend for outerwear with brands such as Phipps creating hype in Paris, Lynch isn't pandering to a trend. She has a long-standing relationship with the humble clothing category - when she was younger she'd even take turns with her mates to wear a rare yellow Columbia jacket brought back from America. So, deciding who her next collaboration was going to be, after two seasons working with cycling label Rapha, was easy. 'I said it has to be Columbia...It's like the dark horse of the activewear world. To pick Columbia is quite funny.' Continuing to use staple silhouettes including shorts, tracksuits, jackets and jumpers, she used Columbia garments to make anew from archive Robyn Lynch silhouettes, such as a zip-up towelling jacket from S/S 20. She filled in any gaps with surplus fabrics from her own studio's materials.
Now, Lynch says, she has developed a better respect for and understanding of her designs as product - you get the sense that she has a devoted customer, and she knows who they are and what they want. Given free range of the Columbia winter clearance section, Lynch explains that she used the colour filter on the website to select products according to three colourways - sage green and grey, beige and citrus yellow and burnt orange. A suitable nod to her previous colour blocking, Columbia then gave her as many products as they had left. The most she got was 15 - the new capsule is very much limited edition. Lynch, however, works best with restrictions in place. 'It's so much more creative. Starting with a blank piece of paper is so much harder. It gives you ideas as you're going. Every zip is functional still', she says. Lynch is still on the search for sustainable mesh and fleece, but the nylon used for S/S 22 is 80% sustainable and made from Sequal ocean waste, and any fabric scraps leftover were used to make bucket hats suitable for another English summer heatwave.
While locked down in London, Lynch also managed to find a way back home through the fashion film she presented. Directed by Stephen Young, models meander across rocky cliff paths and into caves projected with different colour gradients of scenes from Ireland raves, as a soundtrack of voices and sounds from her motherland created by the musician Or:la, play out. After explaining that these visuals were inspired in part by the artist John Gerrard, but mostly by The Simpsons' Mr Burns on drugs, I'm reminded of how Lynch never takes herself too seriously - that's why what she puts out is refreshingly genuine. Selected for the British Fashion Council's NEWGEN scheme for 2021/2022, the University of Westminster alumna is going from strength to strength.