Business Irish

Monday 22 September 2014

Irish designer scrubs take the medical world by storm as Dr Drab goes glam

Tom Prendeville

Published 10/08/2014 | 02:30

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HAPPY THREADS: Dr Abigail Moore and her husband Daniel
HAPPY THREADS: Dr Abigail Moore and her husband Daniel

A dentist by profession, Dr Abigail Moore was inspired to start a business, Happy Threads, with her husband Daniel by the lack of attractive uniforms in the field of medicine.

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Essentially, everyone in medicine has to wear the same shapeless unisex-style blue scrubs, or at best a plain white coat or dress. It's a dreary ensemble, so the Moores decided to market high-fashion scrubs in a rainbow of colours to the medical profession.

A runaway success, the Kimmage-based Happy Threads is now a thriving export business - and even supplies soem foreign TV medical dramas with their wardrobes.

The business started in 2009 in a spare room in the family home, with Daniel Plewman selling the occasional one-off garment. However, Happy Threads thrived - and last year it sold over 60,000 medical outfits.

The firm now employs seven staff and is planning to set up its own design label. Daniel Plewman, a former structural engineer, takes up the story.

"I have a background in construction - building hotels and apartments - and then when the construction industry collapsed I ended up on the dole in 2009. It was a dark old year - you can get very comfortable in a paid job."

However, within the year his luck changed: "My wife found the medical garments in America and got a licence to sell them in the UK and Ireland. Initially, I went door to door with the products visiting dental practices, pharmacies, GPs and so forth. I didn't make much money at first, but after about five months the orders started coming in."

Thanks to word of mouth the order books rapidly filled - and in no time they ended up with a flood of new business, necessitating the opening of an online shop and the hiring of staff to cope with the extra workload.

Daniel's business partner, his wife Abigail Moore, who first spotted the fashionable-looking medical scrubs in the US, instinctively knew that there was a good business opportunity offering medics a fashionable, colourful alternative to the dowdy medical garb which they had been wearing for years.

"When I graduated, dentists always wore what I call a butcher's coat. They had a very high neck and made you appear very unapproachable.

"That's what the dentists were stuck with. The nurses were stuck with ugly nylon uniforms, and everyone had awful, old-fashioned designs.

"I told myself that I wasn't going to wear a butcher's coat," says Abigail.

She wasn't alone. Half of the company's sales are online, with the rest of the business made up of wholesale orders to hospitals. The business is currently growing at a rate of 60pc year-on-year and next year it expects to have a turnover of €1m.

However, explosive growth can bring its own problems.

"The guy in the warehouse is sweating with all the orders - but it is a nice problem," explains Daniel. The targeting of TV dramas, to feature their clothes, has also paid off handsomely in terms of the right type of advertising - a very important consideration in the world of medicine, which tends to be very conservative.

"We have supplied scrubs to the TV series Hollyoaks, a BBC drama called In the Club, and a new Sky drama called Critical which airs in September. The recognition from big TV productions will help us enormously," explains Daniel.

The enterprising husband- and-wife team are now planning to launch their own range of designer scrubs.

"We can now move serious volumes, so we are looking at designing and launching our own range of garments. It is in the pipeline and we hope to get involved with an Irish designer and do it next year.

"Who knows - we might even sell the products back to the Americans," adds Daniel with a smile of satisfaction..

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