1. As a children’s wear designer, do you remember a favourite outfit from your own childhood or teenage years?
The main staple of my teen years were my Dr Martens boots. I painted stripes on them, spray painted them silver and customised them in every possible way. I stitched and painted most of my own clothing to my parents’ dismay; all worn with my Dr Martens.
2. What was your career pathway prior to setting up Fauna?
I graduated from the National College of Art and Design with an honours degree focusing on printed textiles and went straight into visual merchandising and display for the likes of Brown Thomas, Tommy Hilfiger and Pepe Jeans. I project managed store openings and travelled around the island of Ireland merchandising and brand building. I worked in retail and wholesale, so gained a lot of experience.
When I was made redundant in 2015, I decided it was now or never, and started working full-time on Fauna. I had been screen printing and selling baby clothing in markets and craft shops as a hobby for a year or two before.
3. I read that you found it hard to be taken seriously as a designer in the beginning as you started with baby wear. How did you overcome that perception?
I looked beyond Ireland and started wholesaling to Australia. I had an agent who contacted stores on my behalf. I also did a trade show in Paris called Playtime and one in London called Dot to Dot. Ireland started catching on to independent brands and retailers started to take a chance on us while Instagram exploded showcasing creative businesses.
4. Why did you decide to add an adult range to your collection?
I decided to go up to age 10 in kids’ t-shirts. Before that, it was just baby clothing. As soon as the kids’ tees came out, adults started asking could I print pieces in their size. It just took off from there.
5. Can you explain the process in producing your designs?
First and foremost, I’m a printmaker, so my design process centres around surface pattern and colour. I decide on a theme, for example ‘Farmyard’. I then choose four or five animals I want to include in the print, draw each of them and then digitally arrange them into a repeat pattern using Photoshop.
I then choose my Pantone colours, create my official artwork files and tech-pack and send them to my manufacturer for print strike-offs. Lately I’ve focused on gender neutral colours. Colour and print scale are very important to get right. I like my print scale big, but I have to make sure it will sit well on a newborn garment as well as a seven year old’s.
My manufacturer sends me sample lab dips of the dyed organic cotton and once I’ve signed off on those, they make sample prints. Then sample garments. Everything is signed off before bulk production.
For my hand printed pieces, I usually take some animals from the repeat print and draw them in more detail. These drawings are then produced onto silkscreen for me to use when printing sweatshirts and t-shirts. I put the same illustration on screen in three sizes because one size does not fit on toddler, big kid and adult clothing.
6. How do you practice sustainability within your brand?
I use organic and recycled materials and water-based inks. No solvent based inks are used in my print process. All of my cotton is certified organic too. I don’t use plastic in my packaging and I print to order or in very small batch. There is next to no waste. We also partner with Reforest Nation, donating monthly to help fund their tree planting initiative nationwide.
7. What is your best-selling piece?
My rabbit print sweatshirts for kids are my best-seller. It’s a print I’ll never retire. Close behind it is the leopard.
8. As an independent Irish children’s wear brand, how do you compete with high street giants?
I try to keep my prices as low as I can. This means less profit for me and a lot of hard work, but that’s what’s necessary.
I hand print a lot myself. I also style my pieces with high street looks because realistically most people shop in various places, independent and high street.
My pieces wash exceptionally well so they are excellent value. They last longer. I also offer a custom colour service where the customer can choose their own print colours and have something unique to them. This is something the high street can’t really do. I can also produce new prints quite quickly as I do all of my own artwork. Customers like to see new things often.
My gift wrap is beautiful too. I designed it to be striking and luxe. I also ship gifts directly for customers and add personalised notes on their behalf.
9. Who is your style icon?
To be honest, I don’t have one icon. I am heavily influenced by some of my favourite movies and musicians. Characters like ‘Pris’ (played by Daryl Hannah) & ‘Rachael’ (Sean Young) in the original Blade Runner movie are two of my favourites, along with Jane Fonda in Barbarella (costumes by Paco Rabanne) and ‘Tyler Durden’ (Brad Pitt) in Fight Club.
I also love Bjork and Cate Blanchett, while Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Dries Van Noten are among my favourite designers. I love so many different styles!
10. What plans are in store for 2023 for Fauna?
I have some exciting collaborations in the pipeline and I’ll be introducing a new product. It’s something a little unexpected and I hope people like it.