New businesses opening after COVID lockdown
From her studio on the upper floor of No 90 Clanbrassil Street, designer Gillian Leavy can see the Cooley mountains.
On the floor below she showcases her new home and interiors range from Liquorice Design Studios.
The graceful rooms, with original wooden floors and high ceilings are the ideal backdrop for her linen napkins, runners and table clothes, luxurious cushions, as well as a carefully curated selection of glass and ceramics.
It was here that she launched her women’s fashion range, Eden, over twenty years ago.
“I’m here since 1994,” she says. “I had moved home from London to set up a design studio here.”
A graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Gillian has had a varied career which has always had a love of fabrics at its heart.
She has worked abroad, selling bridal wear to Harrods, counted Kilkenny Design among her clients when she returned home.
Opening Eden, named after her daughter, allowed Gillian to produce her own collection of women’s wear, featuring tailoring with luxurious fabrics and fine details, as well as stocking labels she loved.
As the business grew, she moved to a unit in the new Market Square development, where Irish designer John Rocha was once the guest of honour.
Sadly, the demise of the Celtic Tiger, saw her relinquishing that space and she returned to No 90 Clanbrassil Street, where she continued to woo customers with a carefully selected range of fashion, children’s wear, cosmetics, accessories ,giftware and unique items for the home.
In 2014, she got the chance to have her own womenswear collection stocked by one of Ireland’s largest department stores. Soon however, as many of Ireland’s farmers and food producers have discovered from their dealings with supermarkets, she found that it wasn’t the wonderful opportunity she had first thought.
With the store calling the shots, it wasn’t the opportunity she thought it would be.
"That is why I stopped designing women’ s wear,” she says.
Designing, however, was in her blood and she went back to the drawing board.
"You have to be able to adapt and change,” she says, adding that the fashion industry is very susceptible to the fortunes the economy.
Change she has and Liquorice sees her returning to her love of interiors - something she says she inherited from her parents, the late businessman Eoin Leavy who founded the pharmacy and opticians that still bear the family name, and his wife Phil.
"I grew up with a mother loved going around to vintage and antique shops, buying old things and doing them up. Dad was very interested in design and he loved to take new products home to Dundalk. When I was younger, he would take home brochures from the trade shows and I would love going through them. If you add a bit of both of them together, no matter what I did it was going to involve art or design.”
As a nod to the family business, she has called her new enterprise Liquorice as it reminds her of the old-fashioned jars of liquorice that were sold in the pharmacy.
Sustainability is at the heart of Liquorice, as she is using fabrics originally purchases for her previous collections, many of which were created exclusively for her, as well as new fabrics from Irish linen weavers.
She began making cushions in rich velvets, silks and tapestry fabrics, and has now expanded the range to include napkins, table runners, placemats and table clothes, made from the finest Ìrish linens.
"I sew them all myself,” she says, with the satisfaction gained from being in total control of her business.
“I take all my photographs here and Eden, who is studying Graphic Design at NCAD, designed the website for me.”
For a business that was launched during the pandemic in 2020, it’s fitting that, for now, Liquorice is an on-line store only.
“I make all the napkins, table runners, placemats and table clothes myself so they are limited edition, artisan produced.”
While perfect for casual dining, either indoors or outdoors, the table linens could easily become family heirlooms.
Liquorice has been featured in the national press and interiors magazines and customers, some from as far away as the United States, have contacted her via Instagram to say how much they like her products.
Alongside her of table linen, she also stocks ceramics from French brand Dimanche Vaisselle, and glassware from New York based Sir | Madam, exclusive to Ireland.