Interview – Caoimhe Ní Bhroin

WRITTEN BY Victoria G. L. Brunton

April 30, 2022

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Interview – Caoimhe Ní Bhroin

Victoria G. L. Brunton

30 Apr, 2022

Multifaceted creative, Caoimhe Ní Bhroin is by all means “one to watch”. 

Since graduating from Ireland’s leading fashion and art institution NCAD in 2019, the young designer has worked for Om Diva and founded her own label which holds up-cycling as well as sustainable practices at its core. More recently, she has hopped across the Irish Sea to work between Circa Gallery and London’s famous Brick Lane Vintage Market alongside operating as a freelance stylist: some of her work includes none other than a Studio 54 themed event at Annabel’s, Mayfair.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Caoimhe has secured an exciting position as Vintage Seller Development Coordinator which she’ll take up next week at ASOS Marketplace. The best part? She plans on bringing all of her future achievements (of which we’re certain there’ll be many) back with her, to the little island we call home – which is music to our ears. 

Knowing Caoimhe distantly through the familiar, quintessentially Irish context of growing up within the same local area: having similar interests and overlapping friendship circles (and buying some adorable scrunchies from her once), I was so excited to work with her on this piece. What I didn’t realise, was that it would turn out to be one of my favourite articles yet. 

Why? Because as an Irish creative, working in the fashion industry leaves you with few other options than to relocate in order to progress within your career. For this reason, it gives me no greater joy than to know someone else also hopes to bring back their success and achievements to Ireland. It makes the hope of one day having a fashion metropolis of our own, for our young creatives to thrive and excel in, all the more realistic – because, as we all know, our Emerald Isle is not short on talent. 

What made you take the leap to move to London? 

I was looking for more opportunities and wanted to push myself career wise. It seemed like the most obvious city to move to: close to home with lots going on.

Do you think there’s a lack of support / opportunity for creatives in Ireland? / Do you think you would’ve stayed in Ireland if there was an increased support / amount of opportunity?

I think we all know that there is a lack of support for creatives in Ireland.  From studio spaces to funding, to the cost of materials – it’s definitely a struggle!  Without trying to sound too negative, I believe it really comes down to the lack of demand and appreciation. We’re a small island bursting with creativity but without a big enough audience/ customer basis to acknowledge it.  There is so much incredible talent coming out of Ireland right now, imagine how amazing we’d be if we did have all that support going in the right place.

How did you find the move across the Irish Sea, and how do you like your new city? 

It was hectic to begin with because we were trying to find a place to live.  Now that we’re a little more settled, I absolutely love it. A few lost moments on the underground here and there but I’m slowly beginning to understand the place a bit more. Each borough has its own thing going on and I’m loving the South East, particularly Peckham.  There is never a dull moment, there’s so many places to enjoy and endless opportunities as a creative.  On my first night here I got chatting to a lovely girl in the queue for the loo, turns out she is the creative producer for Annabel’s private members club and she offered me an assistant stylist job to work with one of my favourite soul bands, The Pointer Sisters.  I mean, the odds of that happening in Dublin is very slim.

Something that’s already breaking my heart is living far away from the coast, I really miss going for chilly sea swims.  London’s cost of living is a lot higher than Dublin too!

Tell us more about the brand: what’s the dream, the brand philosophy, where you found the inspiration for its aesthetic and what pieces we can expect? 

My brand caoiva_designs is something I’m usually not confident chatting about, it’s only when I see people reaching out and putting in orders to purchase up-cycled pieces that allows me to appreciate how far I have come since graduating from NCAD in 2019.  Textile waste is the second worst polluter on our planet and my goal is to highlight how easy it is to make a difference as a consumer just by taking the time to shop and support elsewhere.

My aesthetic is always inspired by vintage and femininity. It is usually the fabric that I find that sparks the ideas! I am playing on the “girl-on-the-go” expression for my new upcoming stock, sourcing lovely secondhand material around London and reclaiming it to create one of a kind bags, hats and of course, big, glamorous scrunchies.

Where did your interest in up-cycling come from? Was it originally about sustainability for you or more experimental? 

I have always been a big advocate for making use of what you have.  I used to collect old Home magazines from the 60’s and loved reading the Make Do and Mend columns, would be cool to bring them back!  Learning of the damage textiles have on our environment during my degree really drove my passion for up-cycling. I remember in my final year, no one even knew what the term “upcycling” meant! So it’s great to see how far we’ve come.

I understand you parted ways with your Om Diva family recently, what was your experience like working in the store? 

Needless to say I had the time of my life working alongside all the incredible Divas. Ruth, the owner, and I worked closely together through the dark days of lockdowns, building the online website and styling clothing to be uploaded.  A big part of me will always stay with Om Diva, I wouldn’t be who I am today without having experienced working there.  Days in the shop were forever filled with colour, laughter, bizarre earrings and always ending with prosecco on our Drury street bench.

From your time working in Om Diva, were there any independent Irish designers that you particularly loved / stood out to you?

Oh yes! I have admired Laoise Carey since the day she dropped in her first collection, each piece is handcrafted from the most devine vintage fabrics.  Reincarnation is incredible, she is really breaking boundaries within the Irish fashion industry.  Lastly, the infamous John Mangru, he was a dream to work with and each of his pieces are made to perfection. 

Do you think there’s a growing demand for independent / sustainable labels in Ireland? 

Definitely.  It’s great to see so many fashion stylists using local designers for upcoming editorials and magazine features.  Irish musicians have also become amazing advocates for independent design, such as CMAT, Gemma Dunleavy and Lyra.  

As it’s part of your newly appointed position (huge congratulations, by the way), what would you forecast some upcoming Vintage trends to be?

I am currently forecasting Menswear AW23 vintage trends. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of 90’s grunge,  oversized smart wear, earthy handcrafted Scandinavian styles and survivalist outerwear. 

What would you say to those who may consider ASOS’ Marketplace branch as a form of greenwashing? 

Greenwashing can be defined as the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.  With Marketplace being completely separate to ASOS, it acts as an incredible ecommerce platform for independent sellers allowing them to build and grow their audience.  I don’t believe Marketplace to be misleading and I am thrilled to be at the heart of supporting all these vintage businesses.

Do you have anything you’re particularly excited or apprehensive about in starting your new role? 

I am excited to work on a campaign this September where ASOS Marketplace will collab with a number of charity shops in London.  We will help style, upload and sell their stock online for Secondhand September.  

I was apprehensive starting this role as I have come from a very hands-on background compared to others working on the team who have come from buying/merchandising roles for big fashion brands.  I am very aware of ASOS being a global fast-fashion online retailer and I don’t think this will ever sit right with me.  I have to remind myself that my role within the company and the team I’m working with is a step in right direction.

What do your goals and dreams for the future look like?

I hope to set up my own studio in Dublin which would act as an evolving event space for pop-ups, talks and workshops from local artists and designers, with circular thinking being at the core of it.  Hosting Irish design & vintage markets last year showed me that once you have the space to do so, you are capable of supporting and bringing so many like-minded people together.  I admire companies such as FabScrap and the brand LesFleurs Studio that have really been at the forefront of sustainable fashion from the beginning.

I am going to take as much as I can from living and working in London, and hope to bring it back home with me.

Grá mór, 

Caoimhe

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