Sunday 23 October 2016

Fashion... Simply love

Constance Harris

Published 27/07/2015 | 02:30

Jacket, €68; top, €29; trousers, €65, all With Love by Debbie. Shoes, €60; earrings, €7; cuff, €10; set of rings (worn on both hands), €17, all River Island
Jacket, €68; top, €29; trousers, €65, all With Love by Debbie. Shoes, €60; earrings, €7; cuff, €10; set of rings (worn on both hands), €17, all River Island

Casual, ready-to-wear is not a market that Irish labels tend to get into. Mainly because they feel they can't compete with big brands and Asian-produced price points.

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Debbie Deegan, the powerhouse behind the Russian-orphanage charity, To Russia With Love, has never let herself be swayed by what is known or what has gone before.

Since the recession, as well as since all the charity scandals, NGOs everywhere have been finding it near impossible to raise money to continue their work. To Russia With Love was not an exception; children were suffering. In response, charity founder Debbie, whose previous background was in retail, has created a range of high-quality jersey clothing called With Love by Debbie.

"I have come to change my view on charity. I do strongly believe the begging bowl is over," Debbie says. "But if I can produce something gorgeous for women, they will spend. I won two social entrepreneur awards last year, and thought maybe I should actually be brave about this and become an entrepreneur. You have to be brave to order 500 of a top."

All of the monies, bar the cost of producing the garments, go back to the charity and the Russian children it supports.

"I don't care if I have to stay up all night designing a top with drawstrings on it, I will do anything for the children," Debbie tells me when I visit her charity shop, With Love, in Vernon Avenue, Clontarf. This shop is not like any charity shop I have ever seen: it's shiny and new and full of gift ideas.

"I am not a designer, but I have always been dying to design my own range. I love clothes," Debbie explains. "My background was in retail and because we have a shop, it gave me a reason to do it - I had an outlet. I knew what our customers were looking for; I was watching them every day as they were looking through the rails. I could see what they liked and what made them frustrated."

What works, according to Debbie, is thick cotton, as it keeps you cool and doesn't reflect all the lumps and bumps of our bodies, and simple, fluid styles.

"When I was doing With Love by Debbie initially, I was thinking about women and their sizes," Debbie explains.

"I was working out what women feel comfortable with, no matter what their size. I often feel women can feel intimidated going into boutiques where everyone is size 8 behind the counter. I tried to be clever about the shapes, rather than make it for gorgeous super-skinny models. But we do sell size 10 and it sells as fast as size 14 or 16."

With Love is aimed at being easily adapted to your look, comfortable and flattering. It can be floaty as well as forgiving. It's a loving-to-your-body range. It's made With Love.

Photography by Peter Evers

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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