Friday 24 May 2019

Glove queen Rowan gets hands on New York deal

Passion and determination have paid off for celebrity favourite since ill-timed launch, writes Ailish O'Hora

Paula Rowan says she knew if she stuck to her guns she could achieve her aim of being ‘the best glove designer around’. Picture by Steve Humphreys
Paula Rowan says she knew if she stuck to her guns she could achieve her aim of being ‘the best glove designer around’. Picture by Steve Humphreys

Launching a luxury brand at the height of the last recession might seem like a counter-intuitive move, but that's exactly what glove designer Paula Rowan did.

Fast-forward to today and her glove collection has just secured a home at the concept store 10 Corso Como in New York's historic Seaport District and is available there from tomorrow.

The store occupies 28,000 sq ft on the first floor of the Fulton Market Building - a nice Thanksgiving present you could say.

Rowan is a history and classics graduate of UCD and worked as an interior designer before buying out her brother's Claudio Ferricci leather bag shop and business in Dublin's Westbury Mall in 2006. The firm was a one-trick pony with the leather bags business and Rowan soon realised if she were to survive she would need another product range. So two years later she launched her glove collection and they are now attracting high-profile customers such as Helen Mirren, Chloe Sevigny and Kate Moss while they also feature regularly in Vogue magazine.

It wasn't always that glamorous, though, at her Westbury Mall base in Dublin where she also sells belts and bags.

"I launched the day that Lehman Brothers collapsed and when I went home that evening I remember seeing all the employees leaving with their belongings in boxes and thought 'What have I done'," she told the Sunday Independent. "I made no sales that day.

"My Christmas turnover plummeted but it gave me more time to work on my design and brand. I had always thought gloves were an understated accessory and I always loved design."

She was also lucky to have a realistic landlord but there were many sacrifices along the road.

"I had no holidays for seven years, no new clothes, cars. I knew long-term if I stuck to my guns I would achieve my aim of being the best glove designer around. Generally I'd be very focused and I cut overheads as I was determined to keep the shop open - it's part of being an entrepreneur."

Things really began to pick up in 2011 and while she admitted that opening up a pop-up shop in London that year was costly, it was a coup from a marketing perspective. "That year my gloves ended up on the cover of Grazia magazine, then Helen Mirren was wearing them."

Later on, during a high-profile trip to London, Sabina Higgins, the wife of Irish President Michael D Higgins, sported a pair. Other fans include Madonna and Martin Scorsese. There are now 50 designs in 25 different colours and her products are stocked in high-end stores in Milan, London, Rotterdam, Oslo and now New York.

Prices start at €65, at the top end you are looking at €2,800 for a more high-end glove that might include feathers or Mongolian fur.

She is looking at the Asian market and hopes to launch a bag collection next year.

The company is profitable and Rowan expects turnover to be up 25pc next year following an increase of 20pc in 2018. Things are a lot rosier than in 2008 and her focus remains on quality.

While a lot of leather production has gone to China, she has five leather suppliers in Italy that she shares with brands such as Prada and Gucci and she travels there regularly to ensure quality control - each glove is made by hand and takes three months from stretching to stitching.

She also insists that all leathers and furs are ethically sourced.

Sunday Indo Business

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