There is no doubt that the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown, despite promises from government about multi-million euro bailout schemes, will leave the Irish fashion industry damaged for months, maybe years, to come. Some Irish fashion designers, quick to react, turned their studios into workshops to construct face masks and medical scrubs. Designer Jennifer Rothwell, best known for her iconic prints, cannot make THE GLOSS X @jenniferrothwelldesign 100% silk barrier masks fast enough! Others have used this time to reassess their businesses, to connect with their customers, and diversify as best as they can, taking on any opportunities that have come their way.
One such designer is knitwear queen Elaine Madigan. Her brand is best known for its luxe cashmere and silk sweaters and cardigans, and she sees the pandemic as one more reason to diversify her product line. “What a very strange few months it’s been: I’ve loved it, been scared of it and learnt a lot from it,” says Madigan. From a business perspective, Madigan worked hard on her website and her digital platforms. “We’ve had some online sales but what has been really interesting is the bespoke requests from my loyal customers (Madigan has had numerous orders for bespoke light summer-weight cashmere T-shirts: light and breathable in the summer and incredibly warm in the winter, they are real investment buys). “Lockdown has allowed me the time to be more creative with my designs and focus on this niche side of the business. What stands out to me is the importance of customer service and how small retailers are the leaders in this field. We’ve had to push ourselves way outside of our comfort zone: for me this has been about getting in front of the camera and communicating via video links with my customers.”
KDK’s Kiera Kennedy has expanded the scarf company she co- founded with sister Dairine and has seen an uplift in online sales of nearly 30% in the last few months. The majority of the orders have been from new and established customers buying gifts for their loved ones that they have been unable to see or visit during lockdown. “Gifting one of our silk eye masks or headbands is a little bit of luxury, helping to bring a bit of happiness during the tough times,” Kennedy tells The Gloss. “Some of the notes that customers have written on their gift cards have been really heart-warming, from wishing ward nurses get some rest with an eye mask or mothers with new babies receiving headbands for bad/good hair days. It has also allowed us some space and time to get creative and start developing further new products to add to our luxury gifting range. Silk pillow cases and travel pouches are en route!” KDK also has a scarf personalisation service available: if you are looking for a really special gift, send the design duo a treasured photograph and they will create a beautiful cashmere scarf (100cmx200cm) using this print of a special moment in your life or the life of a loved-one.
Fiona Heaney, creative director of affordable luxury Irish fashion label Fee G, has certainly faced the pandemic head on and is keeping Ireland’s creative spirit alight. Heaney told us that her SS20 collection got a great reaction when it dropped initially and then sales stopped when the virus hit. “I, like everyone else, have been working from home. We design branded fashion which is a forward sell, so we make to order as such: we are currently working on SS21, producing AW20 while SS20 has only started to sell well again in boutiques since stores re-opened on June 8,” she says. Fee G is stocked in over 75 boutiques throughout Ireland and the UK. “We are designing from scratch, buying the fabric, trims, linings, making patterns, toiles, and samples. We will then have fittings, have the garments manufactured and deliver each piece hanging to boutiques throughout Ireland and the UK. “There has been lots of laughter in the design room this week, our first week back, as we caught up and got stuck into designing and crafting samples for SS21. Although it’s going to be the toughest year ever, we will deliver our AW20 collection to our fabulous stockists. Heaney is certainly designing for the future and her post-lockdown message is loud and clear: Support Your Local Boutique.
Classic v-neck cashmere T-shirt, €395, at Elaine Madigan
Black and white Ripple silk headband, €30, at KDK
Ocean Underworld pleated non-surgical barrier mask, €27, at Jennifer Rothwell
Checked cotton-mix shirt dress, Fee G, €220.50, at Arnotts
Main featured image: Fee G
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