[timgcap=Anna Dobson of Love Mo Chuisle supported by Local Enterprise Office Wicklow at the launch of plans for Local Enterprise Showcase taking place at Showcase – Ireland’s International Creative Expo at the RDS from the 20th- 23rd January 2019. PIC: Joe Keogh]LoveMoChuisleAnnaDobson140419_large.jpg[timgcap]
Amid a slow fashion trend, traditional and handwoven clothing is seeing a revival.
Tweed startup Love Mo Chuisle is putting a modern spin on the classic Irish fabric with its range of handmade clothing for men, women, and children.
Designer Anna Dobson studied fashion textiles at the University of Ulster and worked in the industry for 15 years before moving back to her home town of Avoca in Co Wicklow with her three sons in 2015.
In late 2017, she started Love Mo Chuisle. Tweed still has connotations of horse riding and waistcoats, Ms Dobson says, but she wanted to bring tweed into the 21st century with a look that’s “more fashion than heritage”.
Moving away from traditional grey and navy herringbone and plaids, she introduced colours such as mustards and raspberries to brighten up the kids range.
She says the market for kids tweed clothing is “completely untapped in Ireland” and her raspberry cape for girls is a best-seller. The girls range comprises capes, coats, dresses and matching accessories in traditional patterns as well as bright colours.
The men’s and boys ranges include a “mini-me” collection with matching bow-ties and waistcoats for boys and their dads, while the womens range offers fitted blazers, dresses, waistcoats, and coats in traditional patterns and modern styles and colours priced from €129 to €389.
While there are several competitors in the Irish market, such as established tweed brands like Magee, she believes there is still room for more companies.
The brand is popular with tourists, Ms Dobson says, and the accessories, in particular, are easy to transport and make an affordable handmade gift from Ireland.
Sustainability is the buzzword in the fashion industry these days. Ms Dobson buys her tweed from Donegal where it is woven from locally sourced wool.
“Working with an accessible and natural, durable material like wool on high quality and timeless design offers a more sustainable product,” and she believes that returning to traditional fabrics is a way to move away from throwaway trends.
The business has grown quickly. Following her win in the Arts category of the Network Ireland Wicklow Businesswoman of the Year 2018, she launched the website in September
for direct sales.
Love Mo Chuisle exhibited at Showcase Ireland in January. The creative expo of fashion, jewellery, and gifts, held over three days at Dublin’s RDS was attended by around 5,000 buyers from more than 20 countries.
Ms Dobson’s stand on the balcony alongside other Local Enterprise Ireland-supported startups, received lots of interest from international buyers, and as a result of the exhibit, she secured stockists in the US, Germany, and France, while wholesalers in Italy, Belgium and Canada place forward orders.
Meanwhile, stockists across Ireland include The Design Loft at Powerscourt Estate, Kilkenny Design Centre, Shannon Airport Duty Free, the gift shop at Bunratty Castle, and outlets in the North.
Currently working with two others on production, Ms Dobson says it has taken time to build the team and “get the right fit”. One of her biggest challenges has been to find seamstresses because of the lack of local manufacturers.
She has availed of assistance with business planning through the Acorns programme for rural-based early-stage female entrepreneurs. Her Local Enterprise Office in Wicklow has provided mentoring, training and funding, including a priming grant and financial support with capital expenses and marketing and website costs.
Ms Dobson has recently moved the company’s production from her home to a premises in Avoca village. She plans to open a retail unit at the front of the building next month. Locals have been very supportive, she says, and neighbours are “knocking on her door” enquiring when the shop “Tweed in the Valley” will be up and running.
She plans this year to build out the website to push sales in the US and other countries. She hopes to showcase at one of two big tradeshows in Boston or Chicago in the near future.