Editor’s Viewpoint: The Northern Ireland Woman Chosen to Model a Dress Made in Honour of Cecil the Lion
“Activists should be proud of this tribute to Cecil the lion. The killing of Cecil the lion by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe led to an outcry from conservationists and new laws in the US making it harder for its citizens to commit such acts in future. But an animal rights activist from Northern Ireland and a London fashion designer teamed up to pay their own special tribute to Cecil. Mary Martin created a dress with a distinctive collar mimicking a lion’s mane, and Janice Porter, who runs an animal sanctuary near Omagh, was chosen to model it for a charity event in Northern Ireland. It was a unique way to remember a king of beasts while raising much needed funds for animal welfare.” Belfast Telegraph
“The way we are living, timorous or bold, will have been our life.” Seamus Heaney
When it first appeared on the international runways, the now legendary dress created a media frenzy. The Huff Post and BBC World Service led the reporting. Now a local media storm has been whipped up thanks to the arrival of the Cecil the Lion Dress in Ireland. Fashion sensation Mary Martin London created something so special out of something tragic. “I was so shocked by the story,” recalls Mary, “I went straight to my studio and because he was dead I thought I’d make this black dress.” Layers of tulle around the neck and shoulders represent Cecil’s mane. “The back of the dress has got the silkiness and fineness of the lion’s body.” The dress was exclusively modelled by an animal rights campaigner and Chair of a Northern Irish animal charity at Lissan House near Cookstown.
Romantic, feminine, elegant, unconventional, dreamy. You are about to enter another world. One of ghostly passageways and arresting narratives. One steeped in fantasy and subliminal presence. A demanding duchess? A languid lady? An actress, aristocrat or model? Maybe all three. You decide. Sometimes the moon rises above water, beyond the line of beauty. A vision emerges, a dress made in memory of Cecil the Lion.
Not many fashion designers are inspired by pieces of legislation but then not many fashion designers are like Mary Martin. In less than five years she has gained the sort of international recognition others would kill for. For her, going viral is a daily occurrence. Her name first came to the world’s attention (via Huff Post and BBC World Service if you please) when she created the Cecil the Lion Dress for Africa Fashion Week London 2015. “When I saw on TV the lion that had been killed I was deeply deeply shocked,” Mary said. She decided to make the dress in black out of mourning for Cecil. “The big fluffy bits along the top are the tulle, the lion’s mane. The back has got the silkiness and fineness of the lion’s body.” Like all her clothes, Mary painstakingly made the dress by hand, ever the perfectionist, working round the clock to meet the catwalk deadline.
Article 10 The Royal Collection is a riot of colour and form and material and decoration and expression and beauty and movement and chutzpah. The detailing is incredible, such craftmanship. An international fusion of British and African influences is apt for the show and for her standing. Mary may be a real laugh but she takes her work super seriously. She’s flown in her favourite models from France and Switzerland to join London’s best. The clock is ticking again. It’s only a couple of days till she shows at Africa Fashion Week London. “The hems aren’t finished yet!” she cries, dashing round the fittings room, whipping up a frenzied buzz of excitement and pizzazz.