Last Summer in Dublin, it was stylist and local fashion expert, Jo Lyons, that introduced me to many talented artists and designers in Ireland, including Úna Burke. I must admit, I have not actually met the legendary Úna. When I was visiting Dublin, she was nearly nine months pregnant with their first child, and unable to travel from her home in Roscommon, in the West of Ireland. Instead Jo arranged for me to meet her husband and business partner, Emmett. Úna is very well known amongst European fashionistas and elsewhere abroad and has designed many leather pieces for film and music stars from Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss, to Janet Jackson, to Michelle Yo in Star Trek.
Emmett could not have been more gracious in introducing me to their line of fierce yet beautifully feminine handmade harnesses, bracelets, handbags and belts. I fell in love with their layered use of leather and metal hardware. Their color combinations and metal finishes from brass to gunmetal to textured enthralled me. I knew right away that their pieces were truly special and would be a great fit for the Lesetta Collection. I immediately created an order upon returning home from Europe. Well, a new baby boy, Leo, a busy 2019 holiday season, and a global pandemic later, I am finally able to offer Úna Burke to the Lesetta community. I must say, it is worth the wait.
When I asked Úna about her inspiration she remarked, “The collection, and the entire brand in fact, is all about strength, survival and resilience. These are much needed traits in today’s world I guess, considering the current pandemic as well as the major political, cultural and climate issues that our generation is faced with.” She describes the ethos of her brand as a military theme. She goes on to say, “My work is all about protection so the materials that I choose to use are tough and hard wearing and the design style also defies the test of time. These pieces are made for the warrior in all of us, whether this is the quiet hero who might wear the simpler bracelets as a reminder to themselves that they are truly wonderful, or for the visually brave, who might wear the more dramatic and flamboyant pieces, I try to cater for all levels of superhero, because I believe that we all are one on some level or another.”
Úna uses age-old craft techniques and traditional tools to make all of her products by hand. She comes from a long lineage of leathersmiths- both her grandfather and great grandfather were Irish shoemakers and she still uses her grandfather’s “awl”, a tool used to pierce leather for stitching and hardware. She says the leather is her guide. It’s strength and nature dictates lots of design decisions. “I admire this strength of character and enjoy working with and around its idiosyncrasies” says Úna. I always appreciate artists embracing natural materials, full of beauty and flaws, even at the luxury level.
As a working mother myself, I have loved hearing about the milestones Úna and Emmett have experienced this year in parenthood. I am thrilled that in this very important time in their lives they have trusted me with offering their work in the US through Lesetta. When travel to Europe opens up again, I look forward to my face-to-face visit with Úna and reconnecting with Emmett, and of course meeting baby Leo. In the meantime, I am enjoying the beautiful work of Úna Burke, and I hope that you will too.