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McKeefry Banner – January 2017

Meet the new generation of Irish entrepreneurs in Britain who are making their own rules and winning

Terri Chandler and Katie Smyth of Worm London
Terri Chandler and Katie Smyth of Worm London

Worm London

It’s been a blooming whirlwind since Terri Chandler and Katie Smyth set up Worm London last February.

The seeds of the fledgling company were sown from a desire to start something of their own and combine the duo’s two favourite things – books and flowers.

Their unique artistic approach, combined with a fun and playful touch, has seen the pair working on a broad range of projects from weddings and workshops to designing event flowers for brands such as M&S and John Lewis.

Originally from Cobh, Co. Cork, Terri worked as an actress in Britain before meeting Dublin stylist Katie in London.

“We wanted to work with the types of flowers we had in our garden growing up, using seasonal wild flowers,” says Katie.

The Worm ladies surrounded by their passion, flowers
The Worm girls surrounded by their passion – flowers

While the daily 3am starts at New Covent Garden Flower Market proved a challenge at first, it was nothing compared to when they moved into their first studio in East London.

“We had a wall dividing us from a drumming studio where people came to practice all day,” Katie recalls. “There was also no window and gross fluorescent strip lighting, it was our very own East End little shop of horrors.”

With their wicked sense of style comes a brilliant take on the traditional as their first Valentine’s Day arrangements proved.

“We offered our customers the chance to send three variations of romance – from the lover who sends a beautiful bunch with some love poems, to the Valentine’s hater who sent a bunch of dead smelly flowers and a beautiful edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.”

As for the future, Worm London is getting ready for Christmas – ‘We have a lot of wreaths to make’ Katie jokes – and there is already a wedding booking in the diary for 2018. Looks like a Cork-Dublin match has never gone so smoothly.

bag-and-bones
Cavanagh and Gigi Foyle

Bag&Bones

Run by sisters Gigi and Cavanagh Foyle, bag&bones has seen this former scientist and aviation lawyer sprinkling their neon magic all over the English capital.

“Bag&bones has been a life-long ambition of ours. We have always loved neon. The seductive glow has lured me in for as long as I can remember. It just has such a positive effect on my mood,” says co-founder Gigi, who was raised on the west coast of Ireland but now lives in London.

Describing themselves as frustrated artists, the pair have enjoyed tackling what’s been a steep learning curve in business.

“I don’t think either of us realised how time-consuming it would be. We work every hour of the day but don’t get us wrong – we love what we do and we’re not complaining,” Gigi says.

“We’d love to spend all of our time drawing up new designs and out scouting for inspiration, unfortunately there’s the whole other side of the business to deal with – sorting out the packaging and shipping, managing our cash flow, keeping our accounting up to date – not particularly glamorous but essential.”

bagbone1-n
Bag&Bones have brought their unique style to the world of neon

From luminous lips to logos and hashtags, the sisters have created a whole selection of come-hither insta-ready neon signs, which are now also stocked exclusively on interiors site Rockett St George.

Their new white paper airplane, with its sleek minimal geometric design, is a current favourite but as Gigi says ‘there’s a time and a place for a hot pink flamingo’.

With plans for global domination – and why not – bag&bones is looking next to Ireland with a pop-up in The Library Project in Dublin’s Temple Bar planned for December 2-3.

Home is where the (neon) heart is, after all.

 

Processed with Snapseed.
Instagram influencer Eimear Varian Barry

The EVB Edit

With an eye for style, influencer Eimear Varian Barry has turned creativity into a career.

Having studied film-making in her hometown of Cork – where she was a Red FM radio producer and presenter – styling and assisting work in New York and Melbourne soon followed.

There was also a brief stint on a tomato farm in Queensland – this girl isn’t afraid of hard graft – before Eimear moved to Britain in 2013 with her partner Daniel.

The last three years she has been building both her brand The EVB Edit and her work as a stylist, model and blogger.

Now living in Surrey, where she is mum to daughters Saoirse and Harper, she shares an honest yet alluring account of her life with her 65,000 Instagram followers.

Organic, assiduous, contemporary are the words Eimear would use to describe herself but she jokes ‘can I throw millennial mom in there?’

Her insta-journey started when pregnant with first-born Saoirse while lying in bed one night in the dark.

“I studied film-making and photography and always shot on my travels, but this was different,” she says. “This wasn’t just a website with photos.

“This was interaction, a hub of inspirations, a place to write, quick to use, and a place to network. I posted photos of my world, through my eyes. People liked it and three years later, it’s my job.”

Having worked with fashion industry names like Julian MacDonald – she recently created the designer’s social media content during London Fashion Week – Eimear, 30, is now preparing to shoot a Christmas campaign with Dorothy Perkins and will be teaming up with Mothercare over the coming weeks.

Having just wrapped on a style feature for ITV and filmed for Marie Claire, she’s also working on a number of exciting events back in Ireland.

“Everything I have ever worked at in my life has taught me exactly what I need to know for what I am doing now,” she says.

 

The Open for Vintage team
The Open for Vintage team

Open for vintage

With experience in international retail, Dubliner Colin Saunders had already seen the challenges big retailers were facing online when he began to question how smaller businesses could ‘win’ in an increasingly digital world.

While still working with House of Fraser in International eCommerce development he met Sarah Byrne, a passionate vintage enthusiast, and a conversation started about how boutiques specialising in luxury vintage and pre-owned fashion could do just that.

“The result of that conversation is Open for Vintage,” Colin says.

Sarah – the firm’s customer engagement director and vintage specialist – had already set up numerous pop-up stores, coupled with buying trips to Asia and the Middle East, making for a strong skill set.

Add to that sales director James Loftus, who has more than 12 years’ experience in sales having cut his teeth in the IT Sales sector with companies such as Dell and Microsoft, and their business threesome was complete.

There are now more than 25 boutiques selling on Open for Vintage across Britain and Ireland, where they work with retailers in Cork, Dublin and Dundalk.

“We are especially proud to work with boutiques that until now have not sold online,” says Colin, the company’s Chief Executive who had spent the last 10 years working in Britain and China where he was Head of Sales at logistics technology company, SmartTrans.

“Dirty Fabulous in Dublin for example, is a stunningly beautiful boutique and we are delighted to be the only place online you can buy from them.”

Best described as exclusive vintage online, the company’s founders initially thought the biggest challenge would be attracting partners to the website.

But after four months of trading they now work with 45 boutiques in seven countries.

“The biggest challenge has in reality been preparing the foundations for successfully engaging in online marketing, it’s been a lot of trial and error,” Colin admits.

Christmas trading is now in full swing with Google and Facebook being two of the main ways the company will engage with customers looking for that unique festive gift.

“It’s much more exciting than just another Christmas jumper, “ Colin jokes.

And he certainly has his eye on more than a sweater this year.

“Personally, as a watch aficionado, I especially like a somewhat unusual Rolex in our collection known as the ‘Kermit’ due to its green detailing,” he says.

“Rolex stopped making them in 2011 so they are highly collectible. The particular watch available on Open for Vintage is unworn with factory stickers which is practically unheard of.”

And on the subject of wish lists – connecting with new stores and customers in Europe and the US will be the focus and ambition in 2017.

“We are also very excited about opportunities in China,” Colin says. “Most of our collection would never have been available there before.”

Open for Vintage is very much open for business.

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Kelly Bar – MPU – January

Siobhan Breatnach
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Siobhán Breatnach is the Editor-in-Chief of The Irish Post. You can follow her on Twitter @SBreatnach

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