February 15, 2021

‘Starting a brand was the greatest challenge I’ve faced’

Fashion is all I ever wanted to do. When I was young I just loved anything to do with design and making and drawing and coloring. It felt natural for me to do creative things but I didn’t create any masterpieces growing up. I never won anything. I was never the star. It wasn’t like I was being courted or anything because I was amazing, I just worked so hard at it and loved it so much. It’s just something I did all the time.

I’m from a small village in Co. Louth and the youngest of six, three boys and three girls. There’s a seven-year gap between the first three and the younger three, so I was a baby when my brother was going to college. It’s really strange because we know each other so well and we’re close and I speak to them all the time but at the same time we didn’t grow up together. 

I haven’t seen my parents so much in the last year, but in general, I see them a lot. They’re so interested in everything I do and they want to know what’s going on. My earliest memories are Saturday mornings at home with my mum and the smell of her baking.

NCAD was probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I know it sounds ridiculous because you say art college and people think you’re just making collages but it was so tough. It is good preparation because when you’re out there it isn’t easy and the working hours are not normal at all.

I worked in New York, London, and Paris when I graduated and I was between staying abroad and coming home to start my own brand. If I didn’t choose to come home when I did, I think that I probably wouldn’t be living in Ireland now. It was my choice, I was going to start my own thing at some point, but it wasn’t necessarily going to be so young.

Starting the brand was the greatest challenge I’ve ever faced. I did have training in fashion and I had experience working in it and I was quite confident in the creative and design end of things but the business end was a whole new world. I think that because I was 25 when I started I was so naive going into it and that probably helped.

The greatest advice I’ve ever been given was from my uncle who taught me that you have to ask for things in business. I’m not a naturally pushy person, I don’t like pushing people, but in business, I think you have to be. A lot of what you do when you have your own business is down to you and what you put into it. If you don’t put a lot in, you don’t get a lot out.

What I’m scared of in life is not fulfilling my potential. Feeling like I haven’t given something my best shot. I hate the idea of half doing something.

Niamh's latest collection with Holly White is available from Arnotts and her own website now.

Niamh’s latest collection with Holly White is available from Arnotts and her own website now.

I have a Whatsapp group with my two sisters and I would turn to them for life advice. I’m in another group called Going for Growth, it’s a women’s business network. I did a programme two years ago, Marissa Carter was my mentor, and we still have the Whatsapp group. In terms of business, if I ever need direction or help with little things I’d be unsure of and maybe my friends and family wouldn’t be able to help, I can turn to them for that.

I would say creativity is my greatest quality but it can have different forms. I would say I’m very resourceful. It can help in terms of being a good friend, you can think of ways to help people in unexpected ways, outside of the box. I’m good at trying things as well. I’ll always try something new. Especially when it comes to sport or anything outside of my work. I’ll always give something a go.

This year I was really surprised by how people can adapt to new situations so quickly. I couldn’t believe it. Even the wearing of masks. If you look around everyone is wearing masks. If you thought about that in 2019 you’d think it could never happen. It’s just incredible how quickly people adapted to that new situation, it amazes me.

My greatest achievements are my two young children, they’re four and one and I’m very proud of them. The lesson I would like to pass on to them would be to teach them to do their very best. Control the controllable. Do the best at what they can do and don’t worry about what they don’t have control over.

I’d like to be remembered for being a good friend, a good mum, a good wife, and a good sister. I love my business and I would like for it to go well but the legacy it leaves isn’t going to matter too much for me later on. We get to know the most important things in life.