BY EMMA CONNOLLY
A YOUNG woman from Skibbereen has just launched an online boutique of contemporary Irish design.
Fashion of Ireland is the brainchild of Phoebe Webb and is the result of her love of fashion and desire to make the industry more sustainable, by supporting, buying and wearing Irish.
Phoebe attended Skibbereen’s Mercy Heights and studied Graphic Design in Limerick, but always had a desire to work with fashion.
She explains: ‘I had the idea for Fashion of Ireland when I was in college, when I thought of it as a platform for college students in fashion courses and graduates. But I put that thought to the back of my mind for a couple of years.
‘Last year I started seeing a lot more things online about sustainable and ethical fashion, it caught my eye and I was really interested in it. The more I read about it the more I wanted to do something to encourage that type of consumerism, and so I decided to go for it.’
Phoebe moved from a full to part-time job to allow her time to concentrate on her plan. ‘That gave me more free time to concentrate on starting the business. I started totally from scratch, building on the idea with a notebook and pen, fleshing it out and perfecting it.’
She then took a Start Your Own Business course, and started contacting the designers she wanted on the website, asking to meet up with them to talk about her idea. ‘From February to September, I worked on building the business and the website, and in October this year I launched. It’s early days yet, but so far the reactions and support has been amazing, and we’re growing every day,’ said Phoebe. Local stockists include Kinsale Leather handbags and lingerie by Clonakilty-based Hot Knickers.
Her biggest challenges so far have been time and finance: ‘I am literally doing everything myself, from meeting the designers and getting them on board, to designing the branding, from building the website, to organising the photoshoots, from the styling, to the business stuff like contracts, terms and conditions, packaging, couriers etc. I am this business, and this business is me, 100%. It’s been hard, but it’s been so good at the same time.’
Her plan is to get more designers on board and the ultimate goal is to make it her full-time job. ‘What you see now is only the beginning. There really is no limit when it comes to Fashion of Ireland. The dream is to make it the No 1 online store to shop for contemporary Irish fashion. And to make it a place you can read blogs to get styling tips, get the know-how on what’s going on in the fashion world with a particular interest in sustainable and ethical fashion and listen to podcasts of people in the fashion industry.’
And her reaction when people say they can’t afford ethical clothes which are typically more expensive than the high street?
‘Think about how much money you spend in the fast fashion high street stores. €15 here, €30 there, but it all adds up. Especially when the clothes you buy end up going out of shape or losing their colour after a few washes and you end up throwing them out. The small purchases add up to a big cost. Slow fashion brands have a better quality to their clothes so yes, you have to make a bigger initial payment, but you get to wear those clothes over and over again. You don’t throw any of those clothes away, so in the end you actually start saving money. It’s about quality over quantity and there are some really fabulous ethical brands out there. When it comes to Fashion of Ireland, not only are we supporting a more sustainable approach to fashion, but we are supporting fashion designers and makers in Ireland, and keeping those jobs here.’ See fashionofireland.ie for more.