Jewellery designer Bláithín Ennis who hails from Gorey, and stocks her custom-made products across county Wexford and Ireland has spoken about the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the fashion industry.
The pandemic came as a blow to Bláithín when some new exciting projects stopped in their tracks, after 2019 had been a very positive year for Blaithin professionally as she started to make a name for herself internationally.
She described what it was like to watch these projects fall by the wayside before her eyes in March.
'It was to be a very busy few months for myself and a lot of my business associates in the design industry. Italy is a very important manufacturing and sourcing hub for many Irish designers so the knock on effect of its shut down has impacted almost every aspect of the industry here.
'Like most people in business, the pandemic has had a negative, ripple effect on the industry. I was in the final stages of my first collaboration project with my younger sister who is studying fashion in the Grafton Academy in Dublin. We had just finalised a collection of clothing and couture jewellery pieces and were due to showcase it to a large audience at the ARC fashion show in March.
'It was a huge honour to be involved in this show with a stellar line up of Irish designers including Helen Cody, Richard Malone and Heidi Higgins to name but a few. More importantly, the ARC fashion show raises in excess of €60,000 for cancer patients, so it is a huge blow for the charity.
'I was also due to showcase pieces at Brown Thomas, celebrating the store's tenth year of the CREATE project which celebrates Irish design. As well as this, I was asked to judge at the Irish Fashion Innovation awards to be held in Galway, a privilege and honour being the first jewellery designer to judge these prestigious awards.
'I also had plans underway to travel to the US but like everyone else, everything was put on hold,' she said.
During the lockdown, online jewellery sales have continued but Bláithín was delighted to see retail outlets open their doors again in recent weeks. She said that she feels the fashion industry is changing, and for the most part in a positive way.
'Many of my design peers are so passionate about quality product, sustainability and sourcing ethically and that's the real positive change. It is clear that this is now reverberating on the larger worldwide brands and coming to the forefront of the 'fast fashion' industry.
'Climate change is a real and current threat to our everyday lives and it is incredibly important that we see this change reflected in every aspect of how we live, including what we wear.
'As a small brand, I feel fortunate to have the use of social media. Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are vital for small design brands and have completely changed the way we showcase our business to a wider audience without the sometimes prohibitive outlays.
'For me, Instagram and Facebook are a great window to my online store. These platforms enable me to liaise with domestic and international customers. It is a positive, alternative way forward, whilst also allowing you to show your authentic self, tell your own unique personal story and showcase true brand identity.
'Having an online presence is vital for many businesses during this time, particularly if you are in the luxury goods, beauty or fashion industry. As a textile graduate from NCAD I love the tactile experience of beautiful products, however many brands have captured their vibe, style and story essence incredibly well through social media so things definitely seem to be moving in this direction.'
Although many industries are expecting to bounce back as restrictions are lifted, Bláithín feels public support is vital.
'We all need to be honest and acknowledge that for the foreseeable future, many businesses will really struggle if we don't show them our support. As a nation, we are great and so generous at helping one another in times of need.
'I think collectively making a conscious decision to support 'local' and 'Irish' wherever we can will have a huge positive impact on the Irish economy moving forward.
'Before every purchase, try your best to ask - "is it Irish, is it local, is it sustainable and how am I positively contributing to the Irish economy if I make this purchase"? and if we all adopt this thought process, the results will have significant benefits'.
Spending the lockdown in Wexford, Bláithín had time to reflect.
'Like many people in Ireland and around the world, the horrific death of George Floyd in the US has triggered much emotion and action across the globe and is calling to end the racial divide that still impacts the lives of so many, unnecessarily. As a white woman, I can never walk in their shoes, but I am determined to stand in solidarity. One of my female role models Michelle Obama says; "Let's invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, make fewer wrong assumptions, let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same".
'On a word of thanks, we cannot ever underestimate how brilliant we are as a nation and how kind people are to each other particularly in times of need. I would personally like to thank everyone working on the front line during this crisis. Our farmers, delivery men and women, the supermarket staff who have consistent smiles on their faces and radiate calmness for their frazzled customers, the owners of businesses who fill our social media pages with beautiful imagery and product and of course all healthcare workers. I utterly applaud and admire you. Thank you'.
To keep up with Blaithin's, search @blaithinennis on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.