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Meet Michael Stewart: The Irish Designer Who Caught Salma Hayek Pinault’s Eye

They are not only exquisitely crafted, as Stewart chose to work by draping on the stand, but also emanate a rare authenticity and elegance.

By Newsd
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Meet Michael Stewart: Michael Stewart is an Irish designer based in London who has established a reputation as a creative force with a singular vision and technical mastery of the traditional art of drapery. The sculptural quality of his brand, Standing Ground, distinguishes it from contemporary fashion. Michael refers to his designs as “atemporal” because they are deceptively simple, basic, and immutable.

Meet Michael Stewart: The Irish Designer Who Caught Salma Hayek Pinault’s Eye

They are not only exquisitely crafted, as Stewart chose to work by draping on the stand, but also emanate a rare authenticity and elegance. Original, meticulously crafted, and long-lasting, Standing Ground is quickly gaining ground in the fashion industry. Salma Hayek Pinault wore a divine white draped gown to the premiere of El Sabor de la Navidad at the 2023 Toronto Film Festival, thereby adding to the designer Clare’s list of illustrious admirers.
Hayek is married to Francois-Henri Pinault of the Kering luxury products group who own designer brands Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen. She typically favors designers from her husband’s luxury stable, which makes her decision to wear Standing Ground noteworthy.

The 57-year-old beauty radiated in the artistically draped, seamless dress with signature waist drapery. Hayek’s flawless figure was accentuated by the thigh-high slit and cascading fringe of the dress. The celebrity mentioned Standing Ground to the press, noting that the designer was Irish and stating, “I hope that everyone loves my dress because I believe he is extremely talented.”

Regarding the timeless character of his work, the designer states, ‘You can’t really identify it, and I like that the aesthetic could be something very ancient or very contemporary. In this regard, it resembles a similar appearance. Our approach to depicting what is very ancient, very modern, or very futuristic is to keep it as simple and elemental as possible.

He continues, ‘That’s why I prefer to design in a gestural manner; it’s all about an instinctive approach’ Stewart prefers to work according to his own methods over industry standards: he does not believe in trend broads or referencing past designers or garments. He states, “We do not expect an artist, painter, or sculptor to work in a standardized manner, as we do in fashion.” Stewart’s method of working and his commitment to remaining faithful to his own vision have a distinct artistic flavor.

The longer I do this as my full-time occupation, the less I believe I rely on references. I rarely make garment-related references. And I do not look at the work of other designers for inspiration. I believe we can just identify where people are doing that very readily and it’s astonishing actually that is how it’s become acceptable to design,’ he observes.


Despite his appreciation for archaic forms, the Clare man’s attire is thoroughly contemporary. It possesses an indefinable quality that renders the garments contemporary while also evoking archaic cultures. Michael exudes an aura of calm self-confidence and self-assurance, which is also evident in his attire. His eveningwear, which consists of dresses, jackets, and jumpsuits, has a distinct presence while remaining subdued and refined. The precision of line, rigor of construction, and purity of silhouette that characterize his work have garnered him praise and the support of influential fashion figures such as Edward Enninful and Sarah Harris of British Vogue. He says of the industry bible’s support, “British Vogue has been incredible, and I am so grateful for their assistance because they have been so helpful.” They are such wonderful supporters; it’s incredible to be featured in Vogue.’

Model walking the runway at the Fashion East Spring 2024 Ready-To-Wear Fashion Show held at Yeomanry House in London, England on September 15, 2023.

Michael’s dedication to his vision, which is original and highly focused, is finally yielding fruit. Stewart graduated from the Limerick School of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Arts in 2013 and then attended the Royal College of Art in London with funding from Kildare Village. There, he learned the discipline of draping from “an extraordinary tutor in pattern cutting.” He acknowledges, “I was very enthusiastic about draping, and I practiced it for two years.” This was all I did.

He He Says: I uncover objects and discover proportions by working with actual fabric. And I believe there are many advantages to working in the medium it will ultimately be published in. There is something about that that leads to the discovery of things you wouldn’t plan on paper.’

He established Standing Ground in 2021 with the assistance of a reputable fashion incubator, Fashion East, and debuted his collection of bias cut jersey garments at London Fashion Week to widespread acclaim.

Michael Stewart walking the runway at the Standing Ground’s Fashion East Spring 2024 Ready-To-Wear Fashion Show on September 15, 2023 at Yeomanry House in London, England.

His current Autumn Winter 2023 collection features new fabrics such as velvet, tweeds, and silks in color saturated dresses and jackets with soft, sensual hips that have been sculpted and amplified. A pink velvet column dress with narrow sleeves, an azure mini dress with origami pleating, a grey hooded dress with hipline embroidery, and a deep burgundy catsuit paired with a hot pink shawl are all destined to make an impression on red carpet

A Model Walks the Runway at Standing Ground Fall 2023 Fashion East Show.
A Model Walks the Runway at Standing Ground Fall 2023 Fashion East Show.

Stewart’s preference for a couture aesthetic and finish alludes to an approach that attempts to elevate fashion to its utmost expression and suggests he may be on his way to a Parisian fashion house. He says he would leap at the chance, “The things you could accomplish at an established home… I believe that is the appeal of it all… the level that can be attained then. And the ability to labor over something seven or eight times and simply re-cut, re-cut, re-cut until it is flawless. You do not have this luxury without a large residence behind you. It is the level of craftsmanship that must be attained in these homes, and the French are remarkable for preserving their craftsmanship. It is a cultural phenomenon in France, Italy, and countries such as Japan, where craftsmanship permeates the culture. This is not available in London.’

Stewart’s dresses have become instantly recognizable for the rope detailing that wraps around the hipline. This signifies the continuity that is so essential to him. He desires to refine and expand such hallmarks, stating, ‘It’s pleasant to see within my work – I’m seeing certain things emerge, and I’m thinking, “Well, that works because it’s very instinctual.” There is a natural flow to working with your hands on something and being completely honest. I instinctively desired to design in this manner many years ago. It did not conform to the limitations of how it is taught or what is expected of it. I almost unlearned a method of working so that I could develop my own.’

Model walking the runway at the Fashion East Spring 2024 Ready-To-Wear Fashion Show held at Yeomanry House in London, England on September 15, 2023.

The Irish Designer Who Caught Salma Hayek Pinault's Eye

Michael has spent over a decade learning and refining his skills in a notoriously competitive city and industry, noting, ‘The problem with London is so many people wanting to do it, and it doesn’t matter what the standard is, because there’s so much noise and a lot of shit people in London making it happen. But you must be able to cut through the din and stick around for a while to accomplish this.’

Despite having been discouraged in the past and almost giving up because ‘the unfortunate thing about the entire market is that it is extremely saturated,’ he has persevered and is now beginning to receive recognition. He asserts, “Many privileged individuals are able to succeed in fashion because they have a safety net.” And then there are a large number of individuals who do not have this privilege but are far more talented but cannot do this full time or for five years before they are recognized. And I was attempting to do this here and there and make it work, and fortunately I was able to make it happen, though it required a great deal of sacrifice.’

Model walking the runway at Standing Ground’s Fashion East Fall 2023 Ready-To-Wear Fashion Show on February 17, 2023 in London, England at Ely’s Yard,Turman Brewery.

Stewart will not dwell on his laurels now that he is so close to achieving his hard-earned success. He is already looking ahead: “I enjoyed what I did, but I’m eager to move on and essentially purify.” Since December of last year, Stewart has had a studio space at the late Alexander McQueen’s Saraband Foundation in East London, and he is optimistic while keeping his feet securely on the ground.

People tend to overlook the fact that it is a job at the end of the day, he says. Michael Stewart is extraordinarily accomplished and sincere; may these qualities propel him to success!

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