After 10 years in retail running Alila, Ali Murray unveils her debut fashion collection
After years in retail, Ali Murray is launching her debut collection with fabrics printed at the London studios of celebrated designer Richard Quinn, writes our Fashion Editor
There was a time when you couldn't go to a wedding or special event in Ireland without coming across an outfit from Ali Murray's Alila boutique on Dublin's Drury St, either the dress, shoes, bag or jewellery.
Ali bought in labels from all over the world - LA, Dubai, Australia, France, Italy, Romania and South Korea, and after five years in bricks and mortar, in 2012 she switched to selling online on her website, alila.ie.
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This month, the retailer's latest fashion adventure has launched. 'Find Your Zebra' is Ali's first complete collection since she made the decision to follow her dream and go back to college part-time.
"After 10 years of running my own company, I had a yearning to go back to fashion design. The day-to-day business had dampened my enthusiasm and I needed an outlet. I decided to return to the Grafton Academy where I had attended one night a week for five years," she explains.
The 'Find Your Zebra' collection started as a 10-piece collection for Ali's college exams and has since expanded into a 22-piece collection consisting of dressy separates that take you from day to night.
"The prints featuring zebras are original and they were printed in Richard Quinn's studio in London because he offers sublimation printing which is environmentally friendly, sustainable, and ideal for bright prints," Ali explains when I meet her at the college located on Dublin's Herbert Place. She says this sublimation printing method provides the best results when used on polyester.
"Some people hear the word 'polyester' and shudder but I find it really has its advantages. For a start, it is machine washable. The fabric I use has a lovely powder touch and feels sumptuously soft against the skin. Several pieces are also reversible and interchangeable.
"The majority of my collection is machine washable, the pieces don't crease and they are lightweight so they travel well. On a recent trip to Milan Design Week where 'Find Your Zebra' was first inspired, I actually managed to fit seven outfits from my collection into my hand luggage, including four pairs of shoes, toiletries and a hairdryer, and I didn't need to iron one thing on arrival, which was great," she says.
"I have named my brand 'Atalier'. As with Alila, it is a little play on words and has 'Ali' in the middle. It's my first collection because I am yet to graduate from Grafton, so I've one more collection to go."
The name for her first collection, 'Finding Your Zebra', came about after she saw an image the designer Delpozo posted on Instagram. "I said to Evelyn, my art teacher, 'I don't know what it is about this image but I just love it'. Her reply was, 'Well find your Zebra'.
"This collection has since come to signify so much more to me. 'Finding your Zebra' is finding the joy in what you do every day, finding that thing you love doing - make it your career and you'll never work a day again in your life. I am so glad to have answered that feeling inside, saying take the creativity and run with it. I made the right decision going back to study while running day-to-day operations for my website. For the last few months it's been seven days a week with many 12-14 hour days, but I couldn't be happier. When you are doing something you love so much that it doesn't feel like work you know you are doing the right thing," she says.
Ali's final collection at college will be a bridal and evening-wear collection around the theme of the cherry blossom tree. It is, in essence, she says, a continuation of the #findyourzebra theme.
Of the Japanese festival when the cherry blossom is in bloom, Ali says: "Families gather under flowering cherry blossom trees in a long-standing tradition called hanami. The cherry blossom tree is a reminder of how precious our lives really are. This idea is tied to the Buddhist theme of mindfulness - the practiced ability to live in the present.
"The life-cycle of these flowers make us question why we fail to live life to the fullest, why we don't spend time with our loved ones, and why we do not take the time to simply pay attention to the living, breathing world around us," she says.
"Cherry blossom festivals are a time to regain our perspective on life, and to make a promise not to take the good things in our lives for granted."