Summer showcase: teamwork pays off for top Irish designers
IN FASHION, size really does matter.
And for the Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD), which held its spring summer showcase yesterday, strength in numbers is key to competing with giants of the industry.
The representative body, which was set up five years ago, aims to help smaller designers network and share information to survive the recession.
This year, the CIFD will be helping its 18 members to run better businesses, be better online, and offer advice on how to approach buyers, bank managers and branding.
Its ranks have grown from 12 to 18 with several drop-ins and -outs, and at its core is a generous sharing philosophy typified by couturier Richard Lewis - in the business 50 years and now helping to mentor young designers.
CIFD chairperson Eddie Shanahan described the current fashion landscape for designers as "tough".
He said: "I think if you look at it from an international perspective, when you see labels like Chanel upping their online presence, you realise that business is shifting."
Mr Shanahan, who has years of experience as a retail consultant, confirmed that several of the Irish designers in the group have moved part of their business online "and some are being very selective about their retail partners".
"When you are a young designer, with a small operation starting out, getting paid is a big challenge.
"While business is tough, I think the 18 designers in the CIFD have something to offer discerning retailers, that all important point of difference.
"I believe our members can do very well because they are small enough to offer semi-exclusivity to stores."
Mr Shanahan recommends that young, emerging designers must make their mistakes in Ireland.
"Don't make your mistakes on the steps of Bergdorfs because you will never recover from that and they will never forgive you. Learn your trade here and then take the next step abroad."
Designers can go to international trade fairs for three seasons before a professional buyer will even buy from them because they want to make sure that the designer is going to deliver.
"That's a long time to exist on fresh air.
"Start in Ireland, build a partnership with some really good retailers and then move on from there," he recommends.
The CIFD chairman praised members for sharing their experiences with others in the group whose members run from recent college graduates to seasoned veterans.