Kim Bernardin, a Korean Paris based designer, inspired by the mythical ballrooms of the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, in County Clare, has created the first-ever ‘Lisdoonvarna dress’

Korean designer, Kim Bernardin, inspired by the Lisdoonvarna dances, at the famous Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival and in particular the magic of the Spa Wells ballroom created the Lisdoonvarna dress.

Reflecting her collection the dress literally flows, “no restrictions” is one of Kim’s mottos. To honour Ireland Kim searched for an ultra-fine, lightweight, 100% linen material to create a dress that would move beautifully with its wearer on the dance floor.

In the photo, the mannequin is daydreaming about embarking for Lisdoonvarna and becoming the queen of the legendary dance floors.

Kim Bernardin's Lisdoonvarna dress.

Kim Bernardin's Lisdoonvarna dress.

She’s heard about Willie Daly, the third-generation matchmaker, and thinks she may as well touch his 168-year-old magical ‘love ledger’.

Willie says people who do “will be married and in love inside of six months”.

We can see in the mannequin’s eye that she is thinking further afield to when she’ll glance back over her shoulder at the effect her ‘Lisdoonvarna dress’, may be having on her future ‘big day’!

Kim has many long term Irish friends in Paris and has often been touched by their constant refusal to worry about anything that couldn’t be fixed, embroidered with their paradoxical no-compromise stance on matters of personal and collective freedom, sewn up with a pure dedication to unadulterated fun. She endeavoured to stitch a little Irish spirit and craic, ‘à la Kim Bernardin’, into her creation.

Kim occasionally takes time out to party and practices yoga on a daily basis but essentially follows Coco Chanel’s philosophy “there is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time!”

Adhering to the idea that love is such an essential part of life, it’s no wonder that she had the idea of designing the ‘Lisdoonvarna dress’. Kim also adheres to Chanel’s work ethic and thanks to her dedication and creativity is one of the few small completely independent label designers still having a boutique and showroom in Paris.

Many Paris based independent designers found the battle of living from collection to collection and maintaining a boutique to be too great a challenge and were sadly and involuntarily exiled from Paris, the capital of fashion, onto the Web. Kim’s boutique is stoically located at 20 Rue des Saints-Pères, in the mythical Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris.

Originally from Seoul, Kim graduated from one of the top Parisian fashion schools and subsequently hosted her first fashion show in Paris in 1995, and went on to open her boutique in 2004.

We can see the influence of her extensive travels reflected in her collections, where East meets west in perfect harmony. A harmony that is also felt when you slip on one of her creations, as although a Kim Bernardin creation flatters the figure, one also has a wonderful feeling of ease and freedom when wearing them. This ease is absolutely essential for a night’s dancing in Lisdoonvarna, where clothes and shoes have to be highly operational. Lisdoon is no place for restrictive uncomfortable attire; otherwise one might risk becoming a wallflower!

Lisdoonvarna previously had a king and queen of the festival, a tradition that may be reintroduced. The ‘Queen of the Burren’ and the ‘King of Lisdoonvarna’ were elected at the end of the festival, at the ‘Final Fling night’, a competition open to singles only. Like ‘The Rose of Tralee’, merely being the best looking was definitely not enough to be crowned at the Lisdoonvarna festival; being entertaining and charming won very high points. The 20 finalists were dressed up to the nines, and were expected to embrace the spirit of the festival and perform a ‘party-piece’. With Irish and foreign TV crews filming away the competitors recited poems, sang songs and often hitched up beautiful dresses and danced a jig or a reel. The hopeful ladies needed to present well and be at ease. The ‘Lisdoonvarna dress’ ticks all the boxes for when the ‘Queen of the Burren’ is back in town!

As well as Lisdoonvarna (the town of love), Paris, (the capital of love) has been a strong and constant inspiration for Kim and the sense of liberty which she experienced when she arrived in Paris, her city of adoption, is consistently reflected in her work. Irish Paris based woman Patricia Killeen, and the renowned Parisian ball organizer the ‘La Bâronne de Paname’, (the ‘Baroness of Paris’) already linked Paris and Lisdoonvarna at an Irish ball on 28th July at ‘the CentQuatre’ the cultural hot-spot of Paris; which welcomed about 1,000 ball goers. Inspired by the Lisdoonvarna ballrooms and the Parisian balls over which the Bâronne presides, this event showed that ‘le bal’ (the ball) is back and thriving and there is a market for today’s ball attires.

Following on Kim’s initiative, inviting Parisian fashion designers to create a ‘Lisdooonvarna dress’, representing their vision of ‘the queens’ of the mythical Lisdoonvarna and Parisian ‘ballrooms of desire’ will be incorporated into an annual Lisdoonvarna-Paris mini-festival.

As a wink and nudge to single ladies heading to Lisdoonvarna Kim’s ‘Lisdoonvarna dress’ is white, and the colour along with being auspicious and a great summer colour, adheres to Kim’s respect of ecology; the dress could be recycled for the lucky wearer’s Big Day! Here comes ‘the Queen of the Burren’ and future bride, dressed by Kim Bernardin, Paris.

Kim will be in New York for ‘Studio Atelier NYC’, 14th to 16th September where the ‘Lisdoonvarna dress’ along with her other creations will feature in the spring/summer collection 2020. We hope Irish American fashionistas will have the opportunity to meet Kim and become as enchanted with her creativity and vision as her Parisian and Paris based expatriate clients are. Her clients, like herself, are often multicultural and diasporic and over the last decade, Kim Bernardin creations have graced the backs of many stylish ladies from New York to Timbuktu. Lisdoonvarna bound ladies are now added to that list – the ‘Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival’ runs from 30 August to 29 September.

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