7 months ago

Irish Cashmere Designer Caoimhe Ryan Talks Life in Brisbane


I moved to Brisbane in 2014, after 14 years in Hong Kong. I love the outdoor lifestyle, great weather and proximity to some of the world’s best beaches. Working for myself allows me some flexibility. I do try to keep some work/leisure boundaries but it’s not always possible, especially in the final quarter of the year which is always the busiest. I try to leave Friday free to do chores and prepare for quality time at the weekend. 

We live in the University of Queensland suburb of St Lucia which has a youthful, energetic, cosmopolitan vibe with great inexpensive options for eating out. We love the pizzeria, St Lucy’s, at the tennis club. There are also two pools at the university. We live right by the Brisbane River so it’s an easy commute to the city on the Citycat catamaran.

Caoimhe Ryan cashmere designer

The first thing I do on Saturday morning is go for a run with my husband, Simon, and my Golden Retriever Finn. We try to run about three times a week, making time for a longer run at the weekend. I was not a runner but Simon has set me consistent targets – from couch to 5k, up to 10k, finally resulting in my first half-marathon in Angkor Wat, Cambodia last year. Completing this was extremely satisfying – the credibility of a decent distance without the pain of a full marathon. On the list for next year are runs in Cuba, Sarajevo and Xian. We tend to do a loop around the University of Queensland campus, stopping off for a flat white or piccolo at the IGA coffee shop. 

Caoimhe Ryan cashmere designer

My children are all fluent in Chinese after growing up in Hong Kong. My eldest Catriona, 21, is at Trinity College Dublin; Oscar, 19, is at the University of Queensland, while Ciara, 14, and Alex, 11, are at single-sex schools here, which have incredibly old-fashioned uniforms considering how casual life is in Australia. 

In Queensland it is very warm from late September to early May so I usually wear shorts or skinny cargo pants with sandals and silk shirts from my favourite Calexico boutique. In the cooler months I layer favourite pieces from my own Nuan cashmere collections. [Nuan means “warm” in Chinese].

My cashmere business was not planned but happened organically. I studied Business Studies at Trinity, before working as an investment banker in London, where I was headhunted to work in New York and appointed director for the Latin American markets at HSBC. When I took a career break to have children and was living in Hong Kong, I became involved in philanthropic ventures, planning events for the Christina Noble Foundation, and had developed a strong network of contacts. I met a cashmere tailor via a friend while on holiday in Shanghai and discovered the softest most luxurious cashmere I had ever seen or touched. I began to create pieces for friends and fundraising pop-ups. I effectively started the business in my living room, beginning by designing a cashmere robe. With the advice of a close friend and business advisor, Nuan quickly grew into a small online luxury brand which delivers all over the world. Nuan’s design signatures are basketweave stitch and fringing: the Parisian Coco jacket is a bestseller and the Coco collection has grown to include a coat, hoodie, biker jacket and accessories. Clients like our classic crew-necks and cardigans, our menswear, and our home range which includes cashmere cushions and throws.

Caoimhe Ryan

Saturday lunch is often takeaway from Botanica which does very good vegan organic salads. Having lived in Asia, we love Asian food and are regulars at Liu’s Noodle Lounge where the Chinese noodle soup is the best I’ve ever tasted. 

On Saturday afternoon if we are not collecting the children from sporting activities, I’ll get down to some reading. I’m in the middle of A Short History of Ireland 1500-2000 by John Gibney, which I have found really absorbing. In the evening we often like to go to a lovely cinema as a family in the suburb of Rosalie – The Blue Room Cinebar – where you can have a meal and watch a movie at the same time. If we don’t go out, we often have a barbecue on our terrace, which benefits from cool breezes.

I was not a morning person until I came to Brisbane where it’s the norm for residents to be up very early (the local pool is open from 4am) in sync with sunrise. When I first arrived I would often take a late morning nap but my body clock has adjusted. With everyone getting up so early, bedtime is usually early too so Brisbane can be very quiet on a Saturday evening. 

On Sunday, breakfast might be Turkish eggs at local café, Forages, after a long run. As a treat we might have lunch at Saké or Moga – both local Japanese restaurants. Other favourites are JellyFish for super-fresh fish and Greca at Howard Smith Wharf. We also go to mass on either Saturday or Sunday evening. Local priest Father Pat keeps the service short but his sermons are wonderfully wise and the whole family enjoy them – he always conveys a good message for the week ahead. I also like to cook a traditional family roast, and make sure the kids help out so they learn to cook. We have a sundowner on the terrace with its view of the city, before sitting down to dinner. 

The kids laugh at my business spreadsheets and lists but they are organised too. I am lucky they are so self-sufficient. My first marriage did not last and I think when children are confronted with this situation, they tend to grow up quicker. I don’t need to micromanage them – other than to check, in the case of the younger two, that they are actually going to sleep rather than on social media. Once they are in bed, Simon and I catch up on a series. We’re also planning our trip to Ireland for New Year. I get home once a year if I can, but we go to Spain every summer so sometimes my family meets there. We’ll be spending this Christmas in Brisbane. We will go to mass and then have lunch – turkey and ham with all the trimmings, rather than the smorgasbord of seafood which is more typical here. Alex and Ciara will head off to see their dad on December 27. 

I’m hoping to arrange a Nuan event in Ireland in 2020 and am currently wondering how to manage stock with Brexit requirements. I need to think this through properly, though business decisions don’t keep me awake at night. I turn the lights out at 10.30pm.



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