London Fashion week is taking place this week. However, the Irish fashion market has never been stronger. One of the breakout areas within this market has been local, sustainable, ethically sourced brands and/or brands in the disability or female empowerment sector. These are just a selection of some of the biggest brands in this area in Ireland:
Designed by a person in a wheelchair for people in wheelchairs. Brother and sister team Nathan and Aisling Kirwin, after Nathan was left wheelchair-bound life-changing injuries eight years ago on the way home from a night out with friends. Nathan noticed the clothes he previously wore weren’t a good fit for his life now. Nathan then co-founded his business with Aisling and together they created “The clothing line which includes sweatshirts, t-shirts, sunglasses, hats and hoodies contains organic and regenerated cotton, recycled polyester and bamboo sourced from local suppliers.”
CEO and founder of the company Paddy Cox has a kidney disease which resulted in him being on dialysis machines for many years. It was while on dialysis Paddy noticed most clothing aren’t redesigned well for people needing the treatment. Often being relieving, making the user even more cold or putting users into embarrassing situations. Paddy set out to change this by design clothing with accessible zips that can then be used for zialize more easily that their current clothes. In 2020 Paddy appeared on The Late Late Show Taking Care of Business Special, where Dialize walked away with the main prize of €15,000.
Started by Emma Coffee when she was a 5th year secondary school student in Cork, according to their website “Finalbend Ltd now specializes in creating fun fitness apparel, accessories and lounge wear”. Finalblend clothes are ethically and sustainably sourced and designed specifically for women “athli-wear” in mind. The company was also featured on The Late Late Show Irish business Special in 2021.
Gary was born at 27 weeks into his mum’s pregnancy leaving Gary with several disabilities and wheelchair-bound. Gary’s parents created the website having found products such as blankets, super-soaker bibs and appropriate hoodies hard to comeby. They created the website and sell them for other wheelchair bound people in 2021. Unfortunately Gary passed away in 2016, but his parents still keep the website running for others in the wheelchair community.
“From the very start of GROWN we made a commitment that we would use the best quality garments with the highest possible ethical standards we could source regardless of the cost to the business. We decided that organic cotton, hemp, linen and recycled man-made fibres were the perfect fit and that all fabrics are incredibly hard wearing, breathable and also completely renewable, so the fibre can be replenished again from nature for nature.”
Created in 2017 by three friends in south Dublin, Gym Plus Coffee has now grown into one of Ireland’s most successful clothing brands, with 7 stores in Ireland and 4 stores in the UK. With a range of hoodies, t-shirts, tanks, leggings, hats, and accessories. The business is prominent online as well as through various pop-up shops in Irish shopping centres. The company has created a partnerships with The Sanctuary Runners, a running club that encourages the local community to run with people in Direct Provision or Refugees instead of doing things for people in Direct Provision or Refugees
Started by a husband and wife team, Pediatric Doctor Dr Abigail Moore and Daniel Plewman, Happy Threads came about because of the frustration healthcare workers felt towards the scrubs they have to wear while working, and couldn’t find any that were comfortable, affordable and stylish. Upon finding the Koi brand in America the couple decide to become their distributor in Ireland and have since launched 2 more brands and further product lines. All their scrubs are made from 100% recycled material. Speaking to ThinkBusiness.ie Daniel said “Over the past 11 years, we have grown to become the leading supplier of scrubs and uniforms in Ireland, with a warehouse in Ballymount and a second location north of the border, in Enniskillen. We serve the UK and French markets, also.”
Hersport.ie was founded with a mission to increase the coverage and participation of female sports in Ireland. To serve that mission the brand has released several merchandise for females that want to support the brand and their mission. They have several Beanies, sports bras, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, bottles, and other products that have been sourced by Irish brands that are featured on this list such as Queen B Athletics.
Created in Co Meath HUH Clothing offers beanie hats, hoodies and t-shirts for all genders. Huh clothing’s mission from it has been to offer comfortable, affordable clothing while spreading a message about mental health at the same time. HUH stands for How’s-Your-Head and the company has teamed up with their local Ashbourne Fire Service – MH-17 to spread this message amongst their members and provide them with HUH-Clothing sponsored clothing at the same time
Founded by sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane, Izzy Wheels transforms wheelchairs from a medical device into a piece of fashion and self-expression. When Ailbhe was in her final year college in The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in 2015 to do an assignment for helpeding the less foretunate. She saw an opportunity, as she used to draw on the size of her sister Izzy’s wheelchair. Together they launched the brand and it was an immedate hit in the art world, with Instagram inviting the brand to become the first Irish company to take over their news feed. Since then Izzy Wheels has won 15 national and international awards and both sisters were named on Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2018 and have recently concluded deals with Disney, Hello Kitty and other high profile designers
As Liadain describes it on her website “This all began from my desire to create sustainable, ethical & functional garments that leave a happy footprint on our earth. Ireland has a rich history of knitwear, which has come to me through my Granny, Mother and Sister. All wonderful craftswomen.” Liadain now offer beanies, and special made to order jumpers, made with organic, sustainably sourced Donegal Wool.
Mobility Genie is an online platform that can be used by Medical Professionals and end users who need solutions to empower independence and positive ageing. To ensure that the user finds the right product, they have detailed videos on each product and real time access to product specialists. With Mobility Genie’s expansion into a new HQ in 2021, they decided to use a portion of the space to create the Centre for Smart Ageing. The Centre for Smart Ageing bridges the Gap between Innovation & our Ageing Population, promoting Collaboration, Inclusion & Digital Transformation. This will involve facilitating Users & Companies to co-design Innovative Products & Services that will have a Positive Impact on our Ageing Population.
Started by two sisters in 2012, in Cork. Queen B Athletics was created specifically for women in sport. The company now offers customizable kits for sports teams, such as Team Ireland rowing, Team GB rowing and field hockey teams in America. The brand now partners with Cork’s Camogie GAA team and Team Ireland hockey team.
Started by 11 year old Rory Hurley, according to RTE “The fifth-class pupil at Star of the Sea school makes envelope cushion covers with a pocket on the front for readers to place a book. Every cushion comes with a ‘word monster’ toy to help younger readers with tricky words at bedtime”. Rory’s idea for reading cushions came about because he wanted to solve a problem for his sister, Aoife. “My sister was constantly trying to put her book somewhere when she was done reading before going to bed. And I just thought ‘why not make it so the cushion can carry the book rather than put it somewhere and the next day trying to find where the book was’,” he explained”.
Created by Graham Clifford The Sanctuary Runners, as a running club, so that members can run with and alongside people in Direct Provision, instead of doing things for people in Direct Provision. According to their website “In 2019 the Sanctuary Runners spread to a dozen different locations across Ireland, from Killarney to Sligo and Longford to Waterford. By November, 2019, we had 1,200 runners across Ireland and now participate in over 50 running events in every corner of the country. At latest count we have 30 groups and over 4,000 members”. Although Covid-19 restrictions have restricted the growth of the brand throughout Ireland, the company now has The Sanctuary Runners Apparel (which was produced in partnership with Gym Plus Coffee) available through their Shopify store on their website.
Teacher, Fashionista, Author, Ted Talk Speak, entrepreneur and named in Megan Merkil’s edition of Vogue’s 25 most influential and aspirational female figures working in Britain in 2018, Sinead Burke is one of the most outspoken advocates of Diversity and Inclusion not just in fashion but in society at large in Ireland today. Sinead began to speak out about how as a little person, fashion wasn’t accessible for her. Using her blog Minnie Mélange. Through that she was invited to The Obama White House and then did a Ted Talk on Why Design Should Include Everyone (which has been viewed more than 1.5m times). She now uses her platform to:
- Present As Me With Sinead. a Podcast interviewing everyone from Victoria Beckham to Jamie Lee Curtis.
- Being appointed to The Irish Council of State
- Writing a award winning book called Break The Mould
- Launching her own business called Tilting The Lens
- And currently completing a PhD in Trinity College
Having Down Syndrome Thomas had always been obsessed with socks, so his dad Finbar thought of the idea of Thomas creating his own socks company. Thus Thomp2 was created. Featuring a range of funky and colourful socks their tagline is “Love Through Socks”. Their socks support Downs Syndrome Ireland and Autism awareness and they pledged to give 5% of any profits to the St. John of Gods.
Sea Swimming has seen a huge increase in popularity since Covid-19 first began. Vicorobes was born out of this, with many swimmers frustrated about having to change in the Irish weather once they’re finished swimming. Vicorobes offers “Dry Changing Robes, Poncho Towel Robes, Drybags and Hi-Vis vests the joys of cold-water swimming, walking, hiking and cycling can be experienced in comfort and warmth.” All their products are made from collected, sorted and recycled materials and they also donate a portion of their profits to Pieta House.
A social enterprise, the company provides a maker space with all the equipment needed to design, create and produce products that can then be sold to the general public. Their designers often come from challenging backgrounds and use the maker space We Make Good provides allows them to create designs such as masks, bads, scarves, ciraminics, pots, pans etc. In their words “Each product we offer stands for big ideas – hope, opportunity and a belief in each other.”