Stable of Ireland – passion and creativity in the Westbury Mall
New Traders: Textiles are their thing, everything from wool to cotton to linen and, coming soon, leather
Sonia Reynolds and Francie Duff of Stable of Ireland: ‘We decided we wanted to create our own brand, one that would present Irish textiles and an Irish lifestyle in a contemporary way.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Evidence to the contrary, these are exciting times in Ireland. It’s simply a question of knowing where to look, and going for it. The perceptive female duo behind Stable of Ireland have a talent for the first, a commitment to the latter and, in spades, the courage to run with inspiration and ideas.
Francie Duff and Sonia Reynolds have known each other since their 20s (Duff is a Dubliner, Reynolds grew up in Lurgan). They have worked together for 10 years and, just over a year ago, got their stylish and highly contemporary brand Stable of Ireland up and going. Textiles are their thing, everything from wool to cotton to linen and, coming soon, leather. “These are very exciting times in Ireland,” Duff says. “There’s great passion and creativity to do things in the country.”
There’s a passion and creativity happening at Stable of Ireland too. It began when the duo became involved with people and companies working in textiles. “We decided we wanted to create our own brand,” Duff says, “one that would present Irish textiles and an Irish lifestyle in a contemporary way to international customers as well as those at home. We have such extraordinary skills in this country; in manufacturing, weaving textiles, much more. ”
Their flagship outlet at 2 Westbury Mall in Dublin has a stylish window overlooking strolling serenity of Harry and Balfe streets. Inside, their low-key, natural colours decor is echoed in muted racks of scarves and shawls, in a glorious new line of linen bathwear, on the walls in examples of their Art Series 1 & 2 (crepe de chine scarves after the work of Patrick Scott and Louis le Brocquy) and, subtly everywhere, in their distinctive accent of orange stitching and colour.
“Orange is a warm, happy, hopeful colour,” Duff says, “it works with everything. Turf, buttermilk and orange are our main colours.”
The original plan was to operate online and do pop-up shops. That was before they took a lease on 2 Westbury Mall. “It’s worked really well,” Duff says, “been a really interesting year. We’ve learned so much about product, customer and brand, plus how we want to grow.”
How do they feel about being touted as the “Hermes of Ireland”? They laugh. It feels good, but insist, “we are a very lovely Irish brand; fresh, new, contemporary and drawing from all the best things about Ireland, on those who produce the best”.
They work with 13 makers and companies. “We collaborate with some,” Duff says, “consulting re colours and fabrics with which we’ll make goods for the shop. We have our own seamstresses too, working piecemeal. There are a lot of designer-trained seamstresses about, doing a wonderful job. As a business its alive and well, properly looked after.”
Working with Irish linen is “a very special thing for us”, Duff says. They work with a couple of linen manufacturers; Emblem in Wexford and Thomas Ferguson in Banbridge – the latter making fine linen since 1854. “We’re developing a table linen line and new linens for towelling and robes,” Duff explains.
The latter come in differing weights and textures and are a wonder to see and behold; large (“our sizes are big and generous, definitely something you can say about our brand”), reassuringly weighty, come in a variety of weaves and colours, are naturally anti-bacterial, naturally absorbent. Duff opines that “weighty linen blankets and towels make people feel warm and protected”.
Now approaching the end of their first, full-time retailing year, they plan to “assess, see where we go in the future. We’ll wait until the silly season.”
The future, they insist, is bright. “There’s so much to work with here in Ireland. We’ll continue to do what we’re doing, to grow the business. We’ve ambitions to be big, but want to be thoughtful about how we grow big. Potentially, we’d like more shops.
The future really is wide open. We’re working with Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU (High Potential Start Up) programme and the first year is all about getting retail and the shop right. We do a good bit online, so that’s a growth area too. So many areas to develop! We’re going to broaden our product offers in 2018, go into other areas of manufacturing and textiles – as in leather accessories.
“Apart from a couple of things we’ve been able to get almost everything made here. Our one real objective is to look after what our customers want.”