Keeping it simple in Kilkenny
Kilkenny-based company Simple Things design luxury products made from alpaca wool, writes Katie Barragry

Simple Things design luxury textiles with a contemporary twist. Made from Peruvian alpaca wool, all products are 100% natural.

Simple Things was established by Shane and Breezy McGlynn and is celebrating 10 years in business. Based in north Kilkenny, they design a wide range of unique homewares, fashion items and accessories.

I wasn’t sure what type of animals they were and could only describe them as sheep with long necks

Before launching their business, Shane worked in finance while Breezy was in advertising. Inspiration for this niche enterprise struck while on a trip to Clare.

“We first came across a herd of alpacas in the Burren. I wasn’t sure what type of animals they were and could only describe them as sheep with long necks. I was later informed they were alpacas,” says Shane.

“We started doing our homework. We soon realised that there was value in the wool that alpacas produce. We got on a plane to Peru to learn more about the breeding and wool producing process. We saw the whole supply chain.”

Simple Things is based in Freshford, Kilkenny.

Within a year, Simple Things were supplying to large retail companies such as Brown Thomas and Harrods, but Shane says supplying to local businesses is a core value for his company.

“I love dealing with independent retailers – that’s the bread and butter. It is so important to support local.”

Simple Things is a collaborative effort with many different elements.

They are such cute animals with huge eyes and long eyelashes

“The weaving and knitting is done in Peru and we design all the fabric in our studio in Freshford. We show our commitment to local producers starting at the breeding stage in the Peruvian Highlands and we are helping farmers to improve alpaca fibre quality by breeding education and innovation programmes,” he explains.

The McGlynn’s love for the animals is evident. “They are such cute animals with huge eyes and long eyelashes. They look like they’re smiling! They hum when they’re in a group together and through exposure to people can be very tame. Alpacas are also very clean and tidy animals.

Alpacas sporting Simple Things wool scarves.

“Alpaca wool has a number of lovely attributes. Not only is it hypoallergenic, it is also very soft – it’s softer than cotton and finer than cashmere while being very light and warm. It is also very strong and durable, meaning it won’t ball up. Their wool is very hard wearing and will stand the test of time.”

Alpacas and the environment

Sustainability is a core value for Simple Things. Along with the use of biodegradable packaging, Shane explains that alpaca wool has recently been acknowledged as the most sustainable of the luxury wools. “Alpacas don’t have a heavy impact on the landscape as they have soft hooves and gently nibble the terrain. Like sheep, they are also only shorn once a year. People becoming more aware of how environmentally friendly the animals are has become a big selling point for us,” he adds.

The pandemic effect

Simple Things has seen some changes since the beginning of the pandemic. “A lot of stores that carry our products have closed and reopened and closed again over recent months. When lockdown began, we had to pivot and shift our focus online. We have reinvested in our online platform and thankfully, the time and the effort is paying off and we’re having a busier online that we’ve ever had. Time will tell but at the moment, we’re lucky to be in a position where we are going to survive.

“On a personal level, I miss meeting people. Events like the Dublin Horse Show and Gifted are great opportunities for us to go out and meet our end customers. These events are such a fantastic showcase for Irish products and a great opportunity to do some business and get your product out there,” says Shane.

“We have 10 years under our belts now. I’m a great believer that if you produce a good-quality product and the price reflects the quality, and is justifiable then that’s the key boxes to tick. I think we got that balance right. Simple Things are luxury goods, but I believe the value is in buying one lovely piece that costs a bit more but will last a lifetime.”

Find out more about Simple Things here.

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