Rosetta woman takes her high class designs to city’s style mile

Designer bets her shirts on ‘pop up’ business model

By Paul Ainsworth

WITH the recession continuing to hammer retailers in South Belfast, one local fashion designer is weathering the storm by moulding her business model to the market and embracing the trend for ‘pop-up’ venues, in her exclusive new store.

Bronagh Griffin, the creative mind behind the luxury label Nineteenthirty which produces cutting edge and (very) limited edition shirts and menswear accessories, is confident the pop-up model – being used to such good effect by restaurants and retailers alike – will boost her already well-established brand and breath new life into Belfast’s very own ‘Bond Street’ – the Lisburn Road.

Despite the economic downturn in recent years, the road remains the spiritual home of boutique fashion in the city, and the perfect location to bring the Nineteenthirty brand onto the customer retail market.

Bronagh, who originally hails from the Lansdowne area in North Belfast is already at the coalface of the Lisburn Road fashion scene. However with her design studio above ground and her sales done online, casual customers may not have known she is one of the leading lights in serious quality menswear.

However, with the new store, open this week until January 7, Bronagh will be stepping out from her behind the scenes role to present her jaw-dropping designs to walk-in customers looking for a Christmas gift that is a well-groomed head and shoulders above rest. This is due to each of her designs available as one of only up to 65 (and some just 25) created. The collections are personally themed and dripping in back story class – from the elegant yet edgy recession-era gangster style ‘Speakeasy’ range, to the ‘Roadtrip’ shirts, bringing to mind the dusty glamour of Route 66 and the spirit of American adventure. Each design in each collection has a tale behind the final look, to which Bronagh applied the skills she honed at both Dominican College in Fortwilliam, and Dublin’s National College of Art and Design.

“Having spent years working for a design consultants, and developing brands for a Derry-based firm which was eventually sold to a company in England, I realised that there were more or less no menswear shirts being exclusively designed in this part of the world. I saw the gap in the market for Nineteenthirty to fill,” she told the South Belfast News.

“I knew people still wanted exclusivity and luxury so I thought the limited edition approach was the way forward.”

Sleeping, living and breathing fashion has helped Bronagh remain a tailor’s cut above the competition as when she’s not in her studio she can be found in couture capitals such as Paris, London and New York, studying up on the styles which are often years ahead of what’s available in the Irish high street.

“Within three months of launching the brand I broke even, so knew I had tapped into something special,” Bronagh continues.

“Yet to a certain extent on the Lisburn Road no-one knew who I was, so I thought about bringing the label to shopfront level. After talking to some shop unit owners I fell in love with the pop-up idea. It allows me to test the retail waters and raises brand awareness. If it’s the success I hope, then looking to the future I’ll be considering something on a more permanent level.”

Gone are the days when ‘pop-up’ meant stores flogging cheap Christmas decorations, as now luxury brands, like Bronagh’s are joining specialist gift stores, and restaurants as a temporary phenomenon, whose ‘get it while it’s available’ aura is proving attractive to customers.

Pop-ups are also being hailed as a perfect model to overcome the constraints of recession through temporary trading, limiting the risk for uncertain retailers. However the dreaded ‘R word’ holds no fear for Bronagh who is one of the few entrepreneurs to use it to her advantage, even when selling shirts which are by no means cheap.

“This financial climate has meant I’ve grown the business organically, and almost in an ‘old fashioned’ way. I see it as a challenge that can be overcome, but it’s something you have to really work hard at and put a huge effort into.”

That effort is continuing to pay off with Nineteenthirty’s temporary doors now open on the Lisburn Road’s ‘style mile’. In true exclusive fashion, Bronagh launched the pop-up with a chic in-store party last week where visitors got a new hands-on flavour of the designs, which are so limited edition they are actually numbered so wearers know they have donned a work of two-fold cotton art they are unlikely to find on the back of a fellow reveller this party season.

Like each of the designs in her collections, Bronagh’s pop-up won’t be around for long, but onlookers are hoping that by combining exclusivity with recession-savvy business nous, Nineteenthirty could be the beginning of the Lisburn Road’s rebirth as the boutique capital of Belfast and beyond.

More details on Bronagh’s brand are available online at www.nineteenthirty.co.uk

 

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