Weaving a labour of love

LAUNCHING her own business was always on the agenda for Carrickmore textile designer Aisling Donaghy.

Even as she developed her skills as a talented needle and thread artist at York Street art college, Aisling
always envisaged working for herself.

“I had aspirations even when I was at college of having my own place and doing that type of work. I just
couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” she smiled.

By 1999, she was going it alone, “There was no jobs in that field and I just thought the only way to go was
to start up myself,” she recalled. “It just sort of developed over the years and diversified into dancing costume and into dress design.”

As her skills and reputation developed, Aisling realised she was going to need her own purpose built studio
in which to work and for her clients to view her wares. In September 2008, she moved into her present location on Carrickmore’s Main Street.

But as Aisling’s business prowess was growing, the economic world around her was beginning to crumble.
“The major difficulties at that time for us, where everything was just going down the hill, was the increased overheads compared to what we had working from home and the lack of money available around the

However Aisling’s Textile Studio has not only managed to weather the storm, but flourish through it. “A lot
of it was about diversifying the type of work we were doing to maintain a steady work flow,” she said.

“One of our main areas was costume design, but that area took a bit of a knock. Being a luxury item, people
just didn’t have the money for it. So we diversified into bridal wear and that’s what spurred us on and
kept up the work flow.”


Achieving success doesn’t come easy she asserts. “Until I was actually in the business, I probably didn’t
realise how much work is involved, but I wouldn’t change anything. I’m always learning, always branching
into other areas.”

Aisling revealed her latest venture has been into the world of millinery, or hat-making to you and me.

“It’s all about offering the client another service, it’s trying to provide as much as you can under one roof for each client. It saves a lot of running for them, so we can design their head pieces to match their outfit.

“It’s very self driven, you need a hell of a lot of motivation because it’s not just a nine-to-five job. What drives me is the fact that every day I go into work I’m doing something different.

“I’m never making the same outfit twice, everything we do is bespoke and you never get bored, it’s a total
labour of love.”

The designer recounted a few words of guidance provided by a Prince’s Trust business mentor in the initial years of her own venture, that have remained with her.

“He always said to me that there is no point in being a busy fool. What he meant was that you could be totally flat out busy all the time, but if you are not actually generating an income for the business, it’s just foolish at the end of the day.

“You’ll always be busy if you’re too cheap and not breaking even. But, I think it’s a lot better to value your work and take pride in it and get a decent income from what you do, especially if it’s something handmade and there are so few skilled people around with all the factories closed. It’s unique in itself to be involved in something like that,” she added.


Looking ahead, the designer is relishing a number of upcoming events to showcase her work and revel in her love of a particular era. “The era I am particularly fond of would be the 1950s.”

From Grace Kelly to Audrey Hepburn, Aisling described the decade as a treasure trove of timeless fashion.
“Their fashion was just exquisite and I would get a lot of inspiration from that.”

Aisling’s Textile Studio will be one of the main contributors to the inaugural Omagh Fair Lady vintage event on July 31 in the Silver Birch Hotel, while she revealed a group of local girls will showcase her work during ladies day at the Galway races next Thursday.

Although last year’s winning lady took home a €1,000 prize, it was the designer behind the winning dress
who took all the plaudits. “It’s not that we think we’re going to win, it’s just about promoting our name,”
said Aisling.

Among the designs heading to the Joyce County is a personal favourite of the designer, an iconic outfit based on the fashion of Jackie Kennedy. “At that time there was so much austerity as well,” she revealed.

“I’m actually finding a big trend at the minute towards austerity that just has that timeless elegance about it,” added Aisling.“Those styles are definitely becoming quite popular again, the more simpler approach to clothing.”

Source: Ulster Herald on 21st July 2011.