Not every designer gets a call from Vogue in their first year, and that's just one of the highlights for Donegal-based fashion designer Bronagh Holmes.
Donegal Woman talks to Moville-based designer Bronagh Holmes as she looks back on the first year with her brand, and she has a lot to be proud of.
Bronagh set up Bronagh Holmes Luxury last December, and has had an exciting year making and selling Irish hand-crafted leather bags and accessories.
The 35-year-old has plenty of experience in the world of high-end fashion, having spent 10 years working in London under prestigious brands.
She’s no stranger to the thrill of fashion weeks, and recalls dressing models in Paris for Vivienne Westwood. “I loved attending fashion weeks and getting a total buzz from them. When you’re working on a collection for so long and you see it coming to life down a catwalk it’s fantastic,” Bronagh tells Donegal Woman.
Working her way into the competitive fashion industry was not easy, Bronagh says, but she had a clear goal that needed to be achieved.
“It takes a lot of hard work and there are sacrifices involved. I always wanted by own label and worked towards that.”
Bronagh had always wanted to set up her own clothing line and returned home to Donegal to do it.
“I started with handbags because I wanted to do something that I was totally in control of,” Bronagh says. She currently has a range of casual to classic handbags made from eco-leathers, suede and fish leathers. She also creates luxe leather clutches, purses and travel accessories.
“It started with one piece of leather, and how that could be worked into a handbag. The collection evolved organically from that. Nothing is forced, and I’m not doing anything just for the sake of it,” she says.
Despite her handbags having high-end price tags (Bronagh largest bag retails for €750.00), Bronagh finds that a lot of her custom is from local women. The handbags are made to order in Bronagh’s studio in Moville, so customers have the luxury of changing details and colours.
“There are more local people than I thought there would be. They pay for the quality and they want something to say ‘This was made especially for me’,” Bronagh says.
“I don’t take influence from other people, I’m more inspired by what I want and what I feel other women want. If you have the right piece of leather in front of you, you can just go from there.”
Each of the pieces are named after mythical goddesses, which is a way that Bronagh brings a unique identity to them.
“The names began with some of my earlier pieces of clothing. I wanted the woman to feel the strength and the power of this goddess when she has the piece.”
Bronagh also has a range of dog collars and leads for the pampered pooch. Her own dog Patch enjoys being the model, she says.
“As soon as I put the camera on him he turns into Zoolander,” she said.
Bronagh was shortlisted in this year’s Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs competition. As she took part in workshops under the Best Start-Up Business category, she had to take stock of her achievements in the first year – and they are quite remarkable at that.
“At the start of the year I thought it would be great to get into some local papers and magazines, then Vogue contacted me!” Bronagh says.
The December issue of British Vogue was all about rising stars, so Bronagh fitted right in among the designer profiles.
Bronagh realised the boost that Vogue gave her brand through a spike in hits on her shop website. Her Alana bag has also been included a Long Haul Luxuries travel guide in Tatler UK.
Looking back on these prestigious magazine features gave Bronagh confidence in the IBYE business trials.
“I had been in business for about a year before the IBYE competition, and when I looked back on who I was associated and what I’d done I did feel proud of myself.”
The IBYE contest was a huge help to Bronagh as she developed her brand and met other young businesspeople.
“Confidence-wise and focus-wise, it was fantastic. The mentors, the support, and everything was amazing. All the competitors got along so well. We’re still close, and there was never really any competition between us. I’ve come out of it a lot stronger, more focused and driven.”
Bronagh is currently working on a new collection for next year – which will included evening bags with Swarovski jewels. She is also planning to create a collection for men.
Check out www.bronaghholmes.com