Monday 16 September 2019

Dublin gets a taste for 'rent a rail' retail as new pop-up aims to leverage Irish designers

Jenny and Emma
Jenny and Emma
Bloss
Emma and Jenny
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A new pop-up has opened up at Dundrum Town Centre; but it doesn't look much like your average temporary store, and its business ambition is a lot more complex than simply selling produce.

Located in the Pembroke District (beside Five Guys), BLOSS is the brainchild of two Irish designers - and their accountant - who have joined forces to create a commercial platform for both established and emerging brands here.  

Products from a curated group of 42 designers are now housed under the one roof, until early January, as Bloss (from the Irish word 'blás' which means taste) looks to build their profiles and brand awareness.

Paul Haycock got involved as he saw how clothes designer Emma Manley [Manley] and jewellery artist Jenny Huston [Edge Only]- who met while working at Dublin's Guinness Enterprise Centre - were struggling with their finances.

Jenny and Emma
Jenny and Emma

"Their hard work and talent was not getting the same level of support as some other female entrepreneurs. But with the correct level of support, both financial and non-financial, Irish designers and creatives can stamp their mark on a world stage," he said.

While building a profitable business is still the main goal, the ethos of Jenny and Emma and other Bloss designers in their commitment to producing sustainable and high quality products.

It was one of the reasons the two co-founders were drawn to each other.

"In the GEC, we were doing something completely different to each other, but we had the same work ethic, the same of every designer as there's a massive lack of a support system here," Emma told Independent.ie.

"While it's seen as the sexy industry to work in, we're trying to be artists but we're also trying to run a business and bring our products to market. We're creatives to the core but our unique selling point (USP) is that we also understand the importance of a business."

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Emma said that their accountant - Paul - was a little more devastated at the end of every business year, as herself and Jenny kept getting rejected for grants, supports, even business loans.

According to Jenny, so many great designers have disappeared from the industry as they've had to give up "because they're broke".

"We're not a tech startup; it's hard to explain to a bank or a government agency about the designer market unless they understand the way that fashion works," she said.

"You have to pay so far ahead, there's that constant churn and cashflow dimension. How can I tell the bank official that there will be a four to six month delay in sales and that 60pc of my jewellery is sold at Christmas?"

When the three business partners were offered a unit at Dundrum in October, a matter of weeks before Christmas, they thought it was too good to be true, but they were willing to get the year-long business plan up off the ground.

Filling the large unit with 30 designers initially wasn't a huge task; they knew many through their own network and designers were open to taking a chance on the store, not least because it was based in the prime location of Dundrum.

"Positioning is everything when it comes to luxury products. Driving online sales is very difficult as buying quality is a very tactile thing, you need to experience the product first hand," she said, stating that Ireland needed a facility here for offering luxury brands, similar to London and New York-based Wolf and Badger.

"It doesn't look like a pop-up store, we rented a proper display with hardwood and oak shelving. We believed all that investment was worth it as we wanted it to look like a department store, making sure we have a fresh window every few weeks."

Both designers intend for Bloss to be recognised internationally, for Irish design to be hung next to esteemed contemporaries from all around the globe.

"It's going to break our heart to close the doors [in January] but it's not just an Irish dream," said Emma, "this is an international dream".

Online Editors

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