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Local designers prove popular at Showcase Ireland Creative Expo

05 February 2020

Eight local design brands are reaping the benefits of national and international recognition after taking part in Showcase Ireland last month.

The event, which allows designers to exhibit their collections, build their customer base and interact with fellow creators, took place in the RDS in Dublin from January 19th to 22nd, and eight local designers from Derry & Strabane were involved.

All have returned with great success stories of firm orders from international buyers, an abundance of interest and leads, and generally a positive feeling about the event as a whole.

The opportunity to allow eight design brands to exhibit at Showcase Ireland came about through the Inner-City Trust’s Fashion & Textile Design Centre, working with the Business Development team at Derry and Strabane Council to secure the money required to obtain the stand.

The successful designers were selected in December after a day-long pitching session at the FTDC in front of a panel of industry experts from Dunnes Stores, McElhinneys, Council and Invest NI. 16 brands applied to pitch at the event and the successful eight were given the opportunity to share space at a large stand at the RDS and sell their ranges to international buyers, as well as buyers from the UK and Ireland.

Piece Makers (Joanne Doherty), Alan Creswell Designs (Alan Creswell), Grace Loves Embellishments (Cara Sweeney), Amy Gault Designs (Amy Gault), Valerie Taylor Hand Woven In Ireland (Valerie Taylor), Bridie Mullin Irish Linen (Bridie Mullin), Natasha Duddy Glass Design (Natasha Duddy) and Celtic Irish Art (Siobhan Corr) were the brands that were selected to showcase at the event.

The Fashion & Textile Design Centre worked closely with the designers in the lead up to the event to make sure that the brands had balanced and quality ranges of product, understood cost prices, margins and wholesale prices, and had a knowledge of lead times, critical path, marketing and sales.

Natasha Duddy of Natasha Duddy Glass Design was one of the designers selected to take part, and she said it was an invaluable experience.

“Showcase was a great opportunity to meet new and existing customers all under one roof. I received great orders and it was fantastic to show my collections in a professional environment where local and overseas buyers come to do business,” she said. “It exceeded my expectations and I am looking forward to fulfilling my orders and moving forward with discussions in the pipeline started at the show.”

Valerie Taylor said it was encouraging to receive praise for her hand-woven bags which focus on local materials.

“Showcase Ireland was a really great event for me and my brand. As well as using Donegal tweed in my collections, I also hand weave my bags using only Donegal yarns and line the bags with Irish linen,” she explained. “My product is 100% handmade and the buyers at the event appreciated this skill and know that their customers do too. I’m very happy with my orders and excited about the contacts and requests that I received.”

Meanwhile, Bridie Mullin said that taking part in Showcase Ireland allowed her to gain global recognition for her Irish Linen clothing and products.

“Showcase Ireland has opened up business opportunities on a global scale that a small business, such as mine, could never have imagined possible.  New leads as well as firm orders have been created in Japan, Canada, USA, Germany, France and Australia.”

Tara Nicholas, Business Development Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said it was fantastic to see that all of the designers enjoyed success.

“It has been fantastic to work with the Inner City Trust and the Fashion and Textile Design Centre on this project, which has given eight talented and local designers the opportunity to showcase their work on one of the biggest stages.

“With over 450 exhibitors at Showcase Ireland, including leading Irish designers and manufacturers, the quality of the eight designers has shone through and it’s brilliant to hear that they have now received orders on a global scale.

“Council is committed to helping aspiring entrepreneurs in any way that we can, and playing a role in bringing eight designers to this prestigious event has been part of that.”

Deirdre Williams, Business Development Manager at the FTDC, said that promoting the talent in the north-west was a big aim of attending Showcase Ireland.

“We feel that it was the right decision to take the designers to Showcase Ireland this year. It was a steady, vibrant event and the buyers who came from all over the world were there to buy Irish specific products – the orders were flowing,” said Deirdre. “It was also great to talk to the many other businesses that were showcasing throughout the event. People were very friendly and willing to share information about possible customers, manufacturing and best working practices.

“This is the third year that we have taken designers to showcase their product at large events. Last year, eight designers went to Pure London and the year before we took ten designers to Fashion Enter in London.

Deirdre continued: “It’s important to take the designers to the buyers, as currently we don’t have anything like this on our doorstep. Year on year at these events we are finding that the output is gaining traction and that we are putting Derry and Strabane on the map when it comes to showcasing attractive, quality design brands.

“We have a great textile and manufacturing heritage in the north west of Ireland and customers around the world respect and are still excited about this. Sustainability is a key word at the moment – however, our offering of clothing, accessories and crafts has always been sustainable – a lot of our designers use environmentally friendly materials, are mostly handmade at the FTDC and are long-lasting and low carbon product.”

For more information of the FTDC, visit @Fashionhubderry (Instagram), @The Fashion and Textile Design Centre – FTDC (Facebook) and https://www.fashionanddesignhub.com/.