Staying in fashion not always smooth as silk
Judith O'Sullivan's sumptuous fabrics are still reeling in new customers, writes Alison O'Riordan
It's been a three-year crash course in surviving a recession, and it hasn't been as smooth as silk for Judith O'Sullivan.
Her business is silk, the most sumptuous of fabrics and a luxury commodity that one would think might suffer in the recession.
Within months of purchasing the silk-importation business, previously run by the legendary Roisin Cross for 28 years, Judith could see the storm clouds forming and radically changed her business model.
Women, she realised, are now looking for alternative ways to put together outfits for that special occasion in a more cost-effective way.
"The plan was to run it similarly to the way in which it had been run by my predecessor, Roisin Cross, and continue its fantastic legacy. I kept the same ethos of delivering a quality product and have tried to keep things simple but there was a need to give customers added value."
Roisin Cross left a brand with a wonderful heritage and a well-recognised customer base, but Judith wanted to give customers "something new to play with".
"There were more enquiries from customers who were becoming quite price-conscious and wanted a service that was more integrated. They wanted more than just the silk. They wanted patterns to make their own dresses and access to dress designers. They were looking for guidance on how to make, where to go and where to buy patterns," said Judith.
Judith bought additional collections of silks with radical new designs and brought in two creative women with flair to help customers interested in in-house dress design.
"I could see there was a need for a dressmaker on site and Ann Flavin is creating magnificent one-off pieces while Meabh Walsh looks after the teaching side of the business."
As the recession hit, the dressmaking courses became more and more popular. "There was immediate interest and I see it as a natural evolution of the business," said Judith.
But she is is aware there are challenges ahead and is determined to face them. "It appears to be working but we are not home and dry."
Roisin Cross Silks is located at 22 Crofton Hall, Crofton Road, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Phone: 00353 1284 6282. www.silks.ie