'Being of service is very important for me, and that is where Unicorn is going. This season, I decided to stop doing wholesale. I am concentrating on working on my collections, and working with my clients and their made-to-measure needs. It wasn't an easy decision, but I feel so less stressed," Sophie Rieu, designer of Unicorn clothing and owner of Garden of Unicorn store in Greystones, laughs.
Sophie is not the first Irish designer in recent years who found servicing the badly hit retail sector so gruelling that she decided to take a step back.
Sadly, several have left the business altogether. But a good designer always comes back to fight another day.
In Sophie's case, it is fighting in a different way. In following the lead of her customers, doing more bespoke and custom-made, Sophie has found happiness and work satisfaction.
"I love made-to-measure," she says. "It's something I developed in the last few years. It's a lovely feeling supporting people like this. You make them feel really special – making something that is of meaning to them makes them happy. I find that very rewarding."
At the recent Irish-designer fashion show in aid of Arc, the audience of stylish working women, in their 30s and upwards, audibly favoured Unicorn's very French chic simplicity and easy femininity. Sophie is from France, as is evident from her work.
"So much of society and our culture is conditioning women to an identity that a lot of women don't feel comfortable with – that whole heavily made-up look, with the big handbag and high heels. Unicorn offers a less processed form of femininity," she says. "It is a form of elegance that's based upon substance.
"We are a label with a strong philosophy behind it, an ethos. I don't like using the word ethical any more because it has become so loaded, but I like the fact that there is care behind the Unicorn label."
Sophie first launched Unicorn 10 years ago as Ireland's first ethically and sustainably produced clothing label. On Tuesday, April 22, from 6-8pm, she will host an open customer evening to begin celebrating this significant anniversary.
In recent years, Sophie has been doing a lot more mother-of-the-bride and bridal wear. "I am noticing more and more that clothes really do tell stories; they reflect your emotional state at a particular time," she says.
"I think women are drawn to my work because I am about no fuss, elegance, being understated. It is about quality, not quantity. My silks are from France, the wool from the UK, everything is produced in Ireland.
"It is like making little universes of luxury that you put on. It is accessible luxury. That's what Unicorn offers."
Sunday Indo Life Magazine