Lifestyle

Wednesday 1 October 2014

A little gem of treasures for that special occasion

Bespoke jeweller Vivien Walsh came to the business almost by mistake, she tells Lucinda O'Sullivan

THERE is nothing to put a glint in a girl's eye more than the sight of a nice little jewellery box!

Women have always had a passion for jewellery, but something that has been handcrafted and designed for you is especially treasured.

Vivien Walsh, one of Ireland's best-known jewellery designers, quietly sells her beautifully crafted pieces from a chic little shop in Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Her jewellery is just that bit different to anything you will find on the high street – and the prices are great.

Vivien was also one of the first people to bring top international designers to Ireland in the Eighties. "I was always interested in arts, crafts, music, making, doing," says Vivien. "I wasn't the academic type."

Travel is her other passion, kick-started when she went to Spain in 1973 as a 16-year-old au pair. "When I came back I had to get a job, and I ended up in a fashion boutique. I spent a few years at that, and then I went to London and I worked with an Italian company that did high-end children's wear such as Armani and so on."

This job involved Vivien travelling back and forth to Italy, and she ended up running nine shops for this company in the UK.

"I worked very hard, was very well paid, had a great time, but there came a point when I wanted to come back home and I thought, 'If I don't make the move now I'll never do it, I'll be in London for the rest of my life,' and I didn't really want that."

Vivien returned to Ireland in the early Eighties and did a 'Start Your Own Business' course with Anco (which became Fas, and then Solas).

"I was going to set up a knitwear business. However, Anco put you through all the financials, the research, and I figured out that I couldn't afford to do the knitwear.

"But while doing the research involved I had found suppliers of beads, which in the Eighties were the fashionable embellishment for the knitwear that I was going to be doing. Then I thought, 'Maybe I can do something with the beads,' and I started making jewellery. So, it was kind of a mistake but it was a good mistake.

"I then got into the Design Centre when it started on St Stephen's Green – I got a case to show my jewellery. It was IDA backed, and the designers had to spend some time there, selling and meeting the customers and all of that."

Vivien says business grew and grew – it was a new thing for Ireland – and from there she opened wholesale accounts all round the country.

"Lainey Keogh and Louise Kennedy were there, a whole gang of us. The buyers would come and business was done. We were all a bit naive, but we were enjoying it. We were writing our orders, doing our business, and paying our way, but I don't think we were that focused properly on it. That came a bit later on."

She expanded and opened a shop upstairs in the same building. "To my own jewellery I added bags, and shoes and belts, and so on."

In fact, Vivien is somewhat modest – she also brought top international avant-garde designers to Ireland.

"I was in Kamouflage at completely the wrong time of life, in the depths of recession, in Dawson Street, in quite a big unit, very high end. Jasper Conran was next door. The sums couldn't have added up, but again I was a bit naive; it just went under.

"I spent that summer having a break and trying to figure out what to do, and then I bumped into Michelle Kavanagh from Powerscourt Townhouse; she had been involved in the Design Centre on Stephen's Green. She said, 'There's a unit in Powerscourt. Would you like to open up?' I said, 'I've no money,' to which she replied, 'Don't worry about that – get a few of your pals together and we'll see how we operate.' That's what I did for a number of years."

Sunday Independent

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