Una Burke, a multi award winning designer and artist has brought new meaning to luxury leather with her boundary pushing pieces. Originally from Ireland the now South London based designer handcrafts pieces using traditional leather-working techniques and the finest vegetable tanned leathers and brass fittings from the UK and Italy.
In addition to these leathers regularly making appearances on Hollywood big screens, she has collaborated on projects with Phillip Lim, Lascivious lingerie, and Victoria Secret. Her unique avant-garde style has also attracted many celebrity fans such as Madonna, Lady Gaga, Heidi Klum, and Rihanna as well as praise from publications like Vogue.
Una’s work is uniquely complex and sculptural in form. The pieces are concept based through human stories of trauma often from military, medical and psychological influence. When speaking about the inspiration for her work Una says she was fascinated by the human mind and how it deals with trauma, from the traumatic event itself to the resulting emotional barriers, the psychological aftermath, and finally journey to acceptance. From this Una created pieces that convey trauma and the healing process reflecting a strong image of endurance and the will to survive.
In interviews Una has spoken about the effects of emotional and physical trauma on the body and the mind and the interactions between. All trauma impacts the mind and because of this the body sometimes subconsciously retreats to protective positions such as the fetal position. Or the classic arms folded in front of the chest pose when people feel uncomfortable. Both of these positions can be seen in Una’s collection- the kneeling piece with the tormented upper body and the piece holding arms folded in front of the chest. These pieces were crafted from natural vegetable tanned leather because of its close resemblance to Caucasian skin. Thus encouraging a strong reaction within the viewer because of the unmistakable reference to the human body and its vulnerability.
Una Burke is an incredible designer, one of the few that despite huge success and international recognition has remained small scale to protect and ensure the quality of each hand made piece. Her thought provoking collections force us to reflect on our own trauma; everyone understands fear, remorse, and pain. Everyone can relate, understand, or connect with her work as an individual, which makes it truly unique and very powerful.