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Thursday 16 August 2018

Workwear for women clothing range to be launched at Ploughing

A new range of functional but stylish workwear for women farmers will be launched by Grace Roche at the Ploughing

Grace Roche modelling some of her new range at Kylemore Abbey, Galway. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Grace Roche modelling some of her new range at Kylemore Abbey, Galway. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Grace Roche modelling some of her new range at Abbey, Co Galway. Photograph: Hany Marzouk
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

The only daughter of a suckler farmer - and with three brothers, Grace Roche was bound to be a tomboy.

However, five years ago Grace, from Kylemore Abbey near Loughrea, found herself frantically looking around the Ploughing Championships for feminine farm wear and was in shock to find that there was little on offer.

"Myself and my husband, Raymond were on the way to the Ploughing. He said he was looking to buy some overalls and wellies and I said to myself that I could do with some overalls and wellies, and had a vision in my head of buying a purple pair of overalls. I looked around though and there was nothing," recalls the 31-year-old.

The last few years, the idea of setting up a female clothing brand for farm and outdoor wear played around Grace's mind. She would travel to the Ploughing year after year and while printed wellies soon came on the market, there were few fashionable and functional pairs to be found. "If you're living in wellies you need a decent pair," she says.

Grace Roche modelling some of her new range at Abbey, Co Galway. Photograph: Hany Marzouk
Grace Roche modelling some of her new range at Abbey, Co Galway. Photograph: Hany Marzouk

"I just always found myself wearing smaller overalls that were meant for men but I wanted to look like a girl, so that's why, on my 30th birthday last year, I gave myself a present and set aside money to get samples of female overalls made," she adds.

This was the birth of Grace's new outdoor clothing brand, Pretty Bird. The brand includes denim and floral dungarees which Grace buys in from Europe, wellies from Norway, printed T-shirts and overalls, which Grace - along with a manufacturing company in Cork - have designed themselves.

Grace manages running Pretty Bird while helping out on her in-law's dairy farm in Kylemore Abbey and working as head of European projects for marketing company Momentum, which is based in Co Leitrim. She said coming up with the name Pretty Bird was a combined effort of herself and her husband Raymond, who she married last year.

"I'd played around with names like Farm Girl and Funky Farmerette, but I didn't want it to just be limited to farming. I wanted it to incorporate all outdoor wear like DIY and gardening. Raymond said I should call it Fine Bird but I liked Pretty Bird as I felt it softened it a bit and was generic but still gave the nod to nature and the outdoors," she explains.

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As head of European projects in her own job, Grace is aware that with Brexit, it's a risky time to start a business but doesn't feel it will affect Pretty Bird.

"My products are coming in from all around Europe and my main concern is that I get the products out there and the business up and running. I don't have any suppliers in the UK at the moment."

As a member of the West Women in Farming group, Grace has met plenty of female farmers who are excited to get their hands on clothes made specifically for them.

"There's nothing else in Ireland like Pretty Bird. If you Google search workwear for women, you get pictures of women in office wear. I've a good following already without having had to shout too loudly about it. I met women at the Tullamore Show who were very interested in it and in my own West Women in Farming group, so there is a desire there."

Grace will be bringing her business the full circle when she launches it at the National Ploughing Championships next month. The Pretty Bird stall won't be your run of the mill tent seen at the event every year, instead Grace chose a very special vehicle to showcase her products.

"I wanted to sell the clothes in a way that would stand out so I bought an old prison truck from Northern Ireland which I've called Jailbird to house the clothes. So I'm converting the truck at the moment and it will have a changing room and a counter," she adds.

Grace hopes that the products will help empower women in farming, who she believes are "the backbone" of rural Ireland.

"I hope it resonates with the strong Irish women involved in the farming sector. They are the backbone of farming and rural communities. These women work hard alongside their husbands, boyfriends, brothers and fathers and do all the tough jobs they do. I'm very pleased to be in a position with this new business to put a spotlight on them and address their workwear needs."

Pretty Bird will be located at Block 4, Row 39, Stand 769 at the National Ploughing Championships in September

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