WearingIrish Margaret Molloy interview: I love to be the girl in the Irish outfit

By Ellen Carroll at Well Fashioned

WearingIrish, of course, Margaret Molloy joined me to chat about her love of Irish makers and her journey to create a WearingIrish movement. Admitting that she’s getting into trouble with her kids for working long into the night to add Irish fashion designers onto her directory and gift guides – this woman isn’t on a one-woman WearingIrish mission – she wants us all to join in and support Irish industry.

Brand Ireland has found itself a grand ambassador in Margaret Molloy and it was a joy to speak to her.

We chatted for ages, discovering that she grew up only miles away from where my mum and dad were born and how impressed she was by the sense of style and individuality she saw on a recent visit back to Ireland after 20 years of being stateside.

So in preparation for the WearingIrish month of March and indeed an all-year-round celebration of Irish talent – come join the WearingIrish community and welcome Margaret Molloy in telling her WearingIrish story in my first Well Fashioned interview.

I love to be the girl in the Irish outfit

Where did your interest in fashion come from?

I’m not a designer, but I recognise the importance of the maker movement. As a marketing executive and analyst, I’m out there and I’m looking at trends. I see the maker movement and I see that we’re living in a very visual world. I see Instagram’s influence, not just in fashion but how it changes our model of communication. I see designers contributing to companies beyond the traditional design skillset.

The Irish are great storytellers, but this story is untold

Ireland has done a fabulous job of telling some great stories

Our hospitality industry and our tourism industry tell a great story about how welcoming we are. We do a great job of telling a story about our tech-savvy. But I believe we need to tell a story about our makers and our creativity in its physicality. My view is that the benefit is much bigger than supporting individual designers. It’s an economic development story. If we as a country want to attract and create high-value jobs, we need to talk about makers more. Of course, we need to support them too.

How did you start the WearingIrish Campaign?

I live in New York and I get to a lot of events in March. Because I’m active on social media, and because of my profile, I get in a lot of photos. Invariably this means I like to have new styles and outfits to hand.

After twenty years of living in America, and as someone who enjoys fashion, I didn’t

have a stitch of Irish clothing in my closet. As a result, I said, “Wait a second. Why not buy some Irish designs. I just had that notion of running an experiment to see what I would learn and how people would react, “why not?” I began that journey, and I soon discovered the creativity and range of product that was available in Ireland.

As a marketing person, I realised this is an untold story. I want to tell this story.  

I have a platform, I host events, I’m a guest at many events, and I’m on social media. So I asked myself why don’t I personally take it upon myself to tell the story of Irish fashion design by not just using words, but visually as well.

And, as I said to my friends, I am not a fashion model, I respect the professionals who do that, but I can be a role model. A lot of people can relate to me, an ambitious, busy professional woman in her 40s who likes beautiful things. Of course, I recognise that there is vulnerability in posting pictures oneself on social media; not being the perfect body type, or not being a certain age profile, but I also believe that many people now find that attractive because it’s authentic.

What in particular do you love about Irish Fashion?

I appreciate the plurality of Irish fashion. There is such a range. It allows us to invoke different aspects of our personality on a whim because there is such diversity of aesthetic available. My personal style is very eclectic. I appreciate different things. And I can fulfil all my design sensibilities from Ireland across the designer spectrum of different brands.

I have corporate meetings, I go to black tie galas, and I have two kids so I have mom duties. I have all these different dimensions to my life, and I’ve found within the Irish design community there is such variety that I can find something for every occasion.

I also like the element of quirkiness of Irish fashion. That is very attractive, and it allows individuals to map items to their own personality. The use of colour is also very compelling. I love colour.

I love to be the girl in the Irish outfit

Irish designers are confident in their use of colour, and they’re unapologetic about using colour, which appeals to my sensibility. Look, I’m in marketing so, in New York, you want to stand out. Irish items have a story to them, and you can still respect your style aesthetic but without trying too hard. As a professional, you need to wear the clothing, the clothes don’t wear you.

What has the reaction been to the WearingIrish campaign?

It’s been overwhelming. Many designers in Ireland have embraced it. Simple things like they use hashtag #wearingirish too. I’ve had lovely letters and emails from designers saying, “We can’t believe this lady in New York actually cares and appreciates our product…this ladywho can buy at every shop that‘s in New York actually cares enough to go out of her way to support Irish designers.”

And people, like yourself, in the community really embraced it in a very magnanimous, supportive way too. A lot of the community here in New York, think,

“Good for you. You’re doing something to help others, and maybe putting yourself out a little bit and going out on a limb.” There’s some risk with that. Every outfit I wear won’t be a winner. You have to have the confidence to not be perceived as frivolous. That’s important to me. I worried about that in the beginning. But my professional contacts have actually applauded my passion and desire to give back.

They look at it as someone who’s really getting their fingers into marketing, personally doing the tweets and Instagram and not delegating it to team members.

This is not one lady’s WearingIrish thing. I’m trying to create a movement.

I’ve had tremendous support. Frankly, people coming to me with ideas that are even beyond my ambition for WearingIrish. It’s not just Margaret putting up pictures WearingIrish, but people like yourself and others across the world. Success will happen when people don’t even know Margaret Molloy; they know WearingIrish is something that’s out there.

How can people get involved in WearingIrish?

Use the #wearingirish hashtag. Consider Irish designers for your next fashion buy. I’ve posted a directory. When you purchase something, why not put a picture of yourself wearing it and use the hashtag.  I’ve been publishing a few gift guides, so explore the gift guides too.

I also recognise not everyone is comfortable posting pictures of themselves. However, if everyone were to go and follow me on Instagram (@wearingirish), and make the occasional comment, like a picturethat would be powerful. Follow #wearingirish too and like others’ posts as well. The idea is to drive momentum and contribute to the movement.

#WearingIrish

You were in Ireland recently, did you get round to see many of the designers?

I certainly love meeting the designers. I love hearing their personal stories, and hearing about their experiences, and getting ideas from them. As a marketing person, I look for inspiration from people who are different from me. I think I continue to be inspired by their commitment to their brands, their creativity, and many of them by their grace, in how appreciative they are of WearingIrish.

And finally…what does Well Fashioned mean to you?

Well Fashioned means being true to yourself, having a point of view, and living your own brand in everything you do.

And ssshh saving the last bits till last

There are big plans underway for something unique in NYC come May 2018. That’s all I can say for now.

BREAKING NEWS: Margaret has just announced the launch of #WearingIrish NYC 2018, a competition to find eight of Ireland’s best fashion/accessories designers and bring them to New York for a showcase with the city’s movers and shakers in May.

On a personal note, I would love to help fly the WearingIrish flag here in the UK more – so expect more news and collaboration to come and get in touch if you’re a Made in Ireland maker of womenswear or accessories as I would love to add you to the Well Fashioned Made in Ireland directory and feature you here on the Well Fashioned blog.

The future of WearingIrish is certainly bright and so is Ireland’s creativity.

WearingIrish

To find out more about WearingIrish, follow @MargaretMolloy on Twitter and @wearingirish on Instagram and check out her WearingIrish directory. Use the #wearingirish hashtag, like, comment, share and blog away to champion WearingIrish before, during March 2018 and beyond.

#wearingirish Margaret Molloy wearing cape by Bernie Murphy, sweater by Blarney Woollen Mill, gloves by Paula Rowan gloves, earrings by Tracy Gilbert Designs & bag by Holden Leathergoods

I should have written this in March but truth be told I was too busy following #wearingirish and coveting Margaret Molloy’s Wearing Irish wardrobe to finish this piece off – but better late than never hey 🙂

But why March? Well March is indeed Ireland’s month. St Patrick’s Day on the 17th March sends us into an shamrock-induced frenzy but thanks to Margaret Molloy, March has become much more than that – it’s also the month of being well dressed and Wearing Irish.

Back in March 2016, Margaret Molloy began to share examples of Irish fashion design on social media with the hashtag #wearingirish and it quickly became a passion project of hers. She soon turned the hashtag into an international fashion campaign aimed at promoting the best designers that Ireland has to offer.

Throughout March 2017 Margaret encouraged people around the world to buy at least one item of Irish fashion and post a photo of them wearing it, or an old Irish favourite, in the hope of building Ireland’s reputation for fashion. Margaret uploaded a photo or two a day on her own social media accounts, including instagram and #wearingirish spread like wildfire.

Her campaign hit the headlines too with the likes of Irish Central, the largest Irish website in America, following Margaret’s example and highlighting some of the great Irish designers that featured in her campaign.

So what happens now that March is over?

Margaret Molloy is on a mission to make sure #wearingirish isn’t just forgotten until March 2018. She has created a directory of her favourite Irish fashion designers to help people find and celebrate the best Ireland has to offer. She’s also still #wearingirish and so are a lot of people – just check them out on Twitter. I hope to post up some of my favourite #wearingirish outfits soon and I’m saving up for some of these great finds: cape by Bernie Murphy, dress by Caroline Mitchell knitwear, dress by Tina Griffin Design, dress by Manley, dress by Niamh O’Neill and bag by Holden Leather Goods.

Her campaign has also encouraged me to write about and feature Made in Ireland and highlight some of the very best Well Fashioned #wearingirish womenswear here on Well Fashioned. To be honest, it didn’t take much persuasion seeing as my family is Irish, and I’ve just returned from a holiday in Ireland where I was surrounded by head turning Irish women of the Well Fashioned and #wearingirish kind.

So, please await a regular Well Fashioned feature on some of my favourite Made in Ireland and #wearingirish finds and thanks to you Margaret Molloy for the introductions. Really hope to get chance to interview you soon.

In the meantime, please check out my Made in Ireland directory. I’m slowly updating this and hope to feature #wearingirish makers who make their womenswear in Ireland. I‘ll also highlight any that are ethically-made too.

And, here’s a link to Margaret’s online directory of Irish fashion designers wearing Irish. Treasure this, but beware it could give you a serious shopping habit.

Well Fashioned Credits

Images all care of Margaret Molloy and #wearingirish.

I know, it’s completely the wrong time of the year to be talking jumpers but after a day of house hunting and looking round an old but ‘going to be cold’ i.e. ice on the inside of the windows in winter type of house, my mind wandered off to the need to stock up on jumpers and thick waffle blankets. Yes, we like the house despite the threat of cold, and there’s nothing like being well prepared.

Also, with a little boy of my own, I’ve got a serious compulsion to keep him cosy and warm by dressing him in an Aran jumper just like my mum used to do to me. Yes, itchy neck and all. I want him to have my kind of childhood so funnily described by the actor Stephen Mangan when he talks about growing up with Irish parents and holidaying with them in Ireland (really sorry but I can’t find the link to the interview). Who knows Stephen might see this and help me out 🙂

And it’s got to be the real thing – the Aran jumper that is – the real, genuine article that’s been made to last a lifetime and is well fashioned at its finest. Only the best will do as I’m looking for three jumpers that after serious wear and in many years to come will be passed down the generations (who says jumpers can’t be family heirlooms): one for my little boy, one for me and also for my partner too. He has Irish roots as well (with a bit of Cornish thrown in) so I’m sure it will be a strong, and indeed well fashioned look when we take to the streets in our ultra-warm and thankfully no longer itchy Arans.

So, one day, I’ll finally get to visit the Aran Islands but until then I’ve been doing my research on where to buy an Aran jumper and luckily stumbled across this old article in The Telegraph by Johnny Morris and his quest for the real thing: Aran sweaters.

It’s well worth a read, along with the rest of his grail trail series which sadly no longer seems to run. You can find them all here on Johnny Morris’s Bespoke Traveller archive, including this one on French Knickers. Read at your pleasure.

So where can you buy an authentic, well fashioned Aran jumper?

Johnny’s recommendations for buying a genuine Aran jumper are:

Inis Meáin Knitting Company that designs and knits all its beautiful garments on the island of Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Co. Galway, Ireland where they are based. They specialise in menswear but have a great selection of Aran jumpers for women although I’m more drawn to their menswear and the thought of being all wrapped up and protected in an oversized crew neck sweater.

Inis Meáin is stocked in shops over the world and online. They also have a factory shop on site which I hear has amazing views of the ocean. Definitely one for a future visit as part of my factory shop tour.

An Tuirne makes handcrafted Aran sweaters and knitwear all hand knitted by women in their homes on the Aran Islands and sold at the An Tuirne shop at Kilmurvey Craft Village on Inishmore.

Founded by Andrew Greaney and Rosemary Faherty, each An Tuirne garment has the knitters name on the label, and you can order made-to-measure jumpers and they sell sweaters for men, women and children.

So two great places to start my search for some soon to be much-loved Aran jumpers. I’ll keep you posted and photos will follow soon, along with (hopefully) more details and interviews with Inis Meáin Knitting Company and An Tuirne.

I’m also due to pick the brains of the mother of jumpers, Edel MacBride, a very talented fashion designer who’s passionate about Aran knitwear and all her knitwear in Made in Ireland. At this rate, we are going to well stocked up and toasty warm in our future home – just got to find it first.