Mallow College of Design and Tailoring
161, West End, Mallow, Co. Cork

Tel: 022 22768
City and Guilds

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A History Of Mallow College Of Design And Tailoring

This article by Maria Moynihan originally appeared in The Farmers Journal

The Mallow College of Design & Tailoring has made the North Cork town the Milan of Munster. We met Principal Mary Cashman, the woman who has made a career in fashion a reality for rural Irish women for 20 years.

The steady, synchronised hum of multiple sewing machines leads you down the hall of Mary Cashman's period townhouse on Mallow's West End to the studio out back. Ten bowed heads pore over swatches of fabric and bright spools of thread as they attempt to get to grips with the intricacies of embroidery. It's frustrating work, but worth it. And if they get snagged, Principal Mary Cashman is close at hand.

Glamorous, given to the giggles and with a measuring tape permanently draped around her neck, Mary established the Mallow College of Design and Tailoring 20 years ago. Since then, it has grown from running a few night-classes to an award-winning college offering the only City & Guilds' approved, part-time Diploma in Fashion Design in Ireland. And for many women - and men, it offers the only realistic opportunity of pursuing a career in fashion design from the heart of Munster.

Fashion Forward
Originally from Kenmare, Co Kerry, Mary moved to Mallow after marrying Cork man Pat Cashman, a farm adviser with Teagasc, who specialises in dairy. She always had an interest in fashion. "I went back to college after my second child," explains Mary. "It was actually a priest that encouraged me, because I would have always made my own stuff, and my mother and father could both do anything with their hands.

"But I found that I loved the technical, teaching side. I was at home rearing two kids, and it was something of an outlet for me. So I started off small with night classes and it just took off from there. "

The Course
That was 1988. Two decades on, Mallow College of Design & Tailoring is one of the premier design colleges in the country and an approved fashion centre for the London City and Guilds Examinations. In addition to the three-year Diploma in Fashion Design, there are courses in fashion, dressmaking and pattern drafting, as well as occasional millinery training. All classes are part-time and are taught by Mary and former student and designer Sue Pearce.

"It's a very practical course," says Mary. "It's all continuous assessment, which favours the mature student, and there are no written exams. We're the only people who do the course part-time for the City and Guilds in Ireland, and our students are getting a good qualification, which is important too."

The majority of Mary's students are drawn from the province, but some will travel from as far away as Kilkenny and Wexford.

Most are mature, ranging roughly from 24 to 40, and include farmers' wives, nurses on split shifts and those working in businesses like Dunnes Stores or Marks & Spencer, who wish to climb the career ladder. And while the course is female dominated, Mary currently has two male students.

Madge Moran travels from the family dairy farm in Mooncoin every Monday for classes. So who's doing the milking in her absence?

"I'm cutting back on that," she laughs. "I always liked sewing, and when I saw an ad for the course and that it was part-time, it suited fine. There are plenty of mature students there, and we all get on great. It's a really friendly place; it's more like a day out, really."

A New Dimension
Rosalie Dunne lives on a tillage farm in Garryvoe, East Cork, with her two sons and works in Ballymaloe House as Darina Allen's secretary. A founding member of Shanagarry ICA, she had always loved sewing, but it was only when her husband passed away that she decided to fulfil a long-term ambition. She signed on for one term at Mallow College and "never looked back".

"The course is great, we're packing so much in and you never know what I might do out of it. It's a whole new dimension in my life, and when I'm here I just forget about everything else, switch off and enjoy."

Itchy Fingers
This philosophy is what's made Mallow College of Fashion & Tailoring so successful. It offers a practical, flexible course for real women who have a special gift, but for many reasons have never had the opportunity to explore it.

Spaces are granted on a first-come, first-served basis, and the cost is not prohibitive: €300 per term or €900 for a full year. Mary Cashman believes that if you have itchy fingers, you should just pick up that needle and get sewing. "Anybody who's wondering whether they'd like it or not will know after about six weeks," she says with a smile.
Fashion Design Course At The Mallow College Of Design And Tailoring
A 3 year accredited part-time course covering all aspects of fashion design.
Dressmaking Course At The Mallow College Of Design And Tailoring
Takes you from learning how to use your sewing machine to following a commercial pattern.
Millinery Course At The Mallow College Of Design And Tailoring
A practical one day course, suitable for beginners, covering a variety of techniques.
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City And Guilds Accredited Courses In Fashion Design, Dressmaking, Pattern Drafting & Millinery
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