Ahead of our Young Businesswomen’s Forum on Tuesday, October 17 at The Westbury Hotel, we decided to catch up with the Irish designer to hear more about her.
Where do you find your inspiration for your label?
Inspiration for Manley very much comes from my everyday wanderings. It’s everywhere! I’m not one to hone in on a specific element and base a collection on it. My inspiration comes from a world that I have created. Everything goes into this world, it’s beautiful things I see, gorgeous lyrics I hear, the way a film makes me feel. For me, a collection is more based on feeling than tangible objects. Music has a huge influence on my work. Every morning when I get into my studio, the first thing I do is to pick music to go with my mood. That mood, during the design process, really dictates the mood of the collection.
Art, street style, fairy tales, books, images – they all contribute to my inspiration. Everything is recorded in my moleskin which rarely leaves my hand. That moleskin will be looked through a million times over during the design process to help trigger ideas etc. For me, it’s the single most important thing when I sit down to design a collection.
What has been your biggest high for the Manley label?
Launching our accessories has to be the biggest high for Manley so far and what I’m most proud of. It was something I had always dreamed of doing but actually making it a reality and holding a Manley Bag for the very first time was one of those ‘holy shit we did it’ moments.
What challenges had you never anticipated?
So many but as long as your overcoming and learning from them, you’re on the right track! I never thought manufacturing in Ireland would be such a difficult task. In my naivety I thought we would be a 100% made in Ireland brand. What I didn’t consider was Manley’s need for artisan leather workers and the lack of them in Ireland. It took me time to understand that manufacturing 50% of our product in Italy in a fifth generation family run factory was actually something to be very proud of and not to feel like I was letting our customer down by not making all of our offering in Ireland. That fact that we make 50% of our product in Ireland is actually a huge achievement, I don’t think many other Irish Designers could claim that.
Who has been a part of your support system along the way?
My husband and the Manley’s. My Mum was a designer herself so her understanding the biz is incredibly helpful. My sisters are there to give me encouragement every step of the way but equally there when things don’t go my way, they’re there with a shoulder at the ready. My husband Eoin is very a part of Manley. He’s a digital and tech whiz so any of that cool online stuff we do, well he’s the guy that does it! He’s there to support. My husband, my Mum and my sisters are the people who have seen it all and held my hand along the way. Without their love and support I couldn’t have brought Manley to where it is now. Being a solopreneur is tough and having that support system is what makes it that bit easier.
Do you have any mentors you turn to for advice?
Absolutely. Having that sounding board and advice is vital. I have learned that mentors comes in many shapes and sizes, sometimes they seek out you and other times you seek them out them. You know when you have met the right one, it just fits.
Hear Emma and fellow panellists Sonia Deasy and Catherine Buggy talk about their working life at our IMAGE Young Businesswomen’s Forum.