After several years working throughout Europe, Irish Fashion Designer Sinéad Doyle returned home to launch her own eponymous luxury daywear label in 2009. At her studio in Dublin, she combines her knowledge of tailoring, corsetry and cutting to create contemporary structured women’s-wear pieces.
What is your own background/ethnic heritage?
I’m pure Irish, back to the Vikings anyway with my surname. Most of my family was from Dublin but there might be a bit of Mayo in there a few generations back.
What inspired you to start the company?
It never occurred to me that I would work for someone else when I was ‘grown up’ – so eventually starting my own company seemed like the thing to do.
What are the challenges of the profession?
A lot a fashion is run on money and contacts and, being from a small suburban estate, I have neither! Trying to break into a profession when you’re very much an outsider and get people to give you five minutes of their time is tough. It’s taken four long years to really build up my contacts and for people within the industry just in Ireland to begin to recognize my name. The other difficult thing is that running a fashion company means trying to find a balance between creativity and enterprise and it’s difficult to be both.
What are the rewards?
I get great satisfaction out of seeing someone wearing my designs and it’s even better when they come back to buy more and I know they genuinely felt comfortable in the clothing. I have my own studio which I love and working non-stop for yourself is always more satisfying and mysteriously less tiring than working 9-5 for someone else.
What is the company’s core mandate?
My clothes should make the wearer feel womanly and powerful. My customers are usually professional women, who appreciate a touch of luxury, buying for themselves.
What are your key products?
I’ve developed a very flattering trouser cut and it’s become the bread and butter of the company.
What is your marketplace?
Contemporary high end/ luxury daywear. My customers are usually late 30s upwards. It’s a limited market in Ireland so I’m really pushing to expand this year.
How do you differ from your competition?
Most Irish designers focus on occasion-wear. There’s also a lot of knitwear in Ireland as we’re well known for it. There isn’t a lot of tailoring, and what there is, is very traditional and not particularly luxurious. In Central Europe, where people spend more on good quality daywear, I would have a lot more competition.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Irish economy?
It’s frustrating because we’re told that we’re suffering because we all went crazy spending and lived it up but the causes of most of this comes down to a handful of people who borrowed massive amounts of money, told lies, forced up property prices, sold dodgy housing and then passed all those dues onto the people of Ireland. People are angry and frustrated and there’s very little trust in politicians. On the upside, there are more people willing to branch out, support each other, and try something new because they don’t trust the old systems. There are lots of new ventures, pop-up shops, studios etc, cropping up and people are beginning to be cautiously optimistic again. It’s a very strange time and I think the economy is recovering but it’s going to be slow.
Are we doing enough to preserve & promote Celtic culture generally?
That’s a tough one. Sometimes I feel that the ways Celtic culture is promoted is either in an embarrassingly twee way aimed at tourists or it’s forced onto people, such as learning the Irish language at school, in a way that people resent. I don’t think we’re doing enough to promote Celtic culture in a sustainable way that makes people genuinely proud of their heritage.
What can we be doing better?
I’m not really sure. I think a lot of Celtic culture has been repackaged for the tourist market in a way that turns it into something different and slightly embarrassing and I’d like to rewind that and show the world more genuine aspects of our heritage. One example would be Irish dancing which has gone from being a beautiful tradition to this crazy beauty pageant thing with wigs, make-up, fake tan and sparkly dresses. Everyone I know regrets that, several people are refusing to put their children into classes when they would have done it unthinkingly before. In the rush to export the Irish dance craze following Riverdance, a lovely tradition became something that no one recognizes.
What’s next on your agenda?
I’ve just signed up with a PR company in London so it’s really about taking things to an international level now. Fingers crossed.
Check out some of Sinead’s work here!