What’s next for Irish beauty, fashion, food and travel? We ask industry key players...

From fashion and beauty to food and travel, how will some of the things we love best weather this storm? Lizzie Gore-Grimes talks to industry leaders across Ireland to find out how they’ve been affected and, most importantly, how and when they’ll be back in business...  


FASHION 

Stylist Aisling Farinella photographed at home by Doreen Kilfeather

AISLING FARINELLA, Stylist and Creative Consultant 

One of Ireland’s most established stylists and vocal supporters of indigenous design talent, Aisling is a regular lecturer, speaker and commentator on fashion and is the co- founder and editor of Thread magazine. 

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“As a global industry, fashion is set on a pretty devastating course. Everything from high-end to high street and independent labels to heritage houses are suffering with excess stock, seasonal production curtailed, orders pulled, closed premises and staff furloughs. The creative freelancers who once fuelled the industry, now find themselves lost at sea. 

We all uneasily knew fashion was broken, but it somehow felt unstoppable, until now. When we start to move again, sustainability and moderation will be key

The resounding industry message is that this is the time to rethink and revise fashion. We all uneasily knew it was broken, but it somehow felt unstoppable, until now. When we start to move again, the key factor will be a necessary new approach from consumers, designers, retailers and media with sustainability, moderation, support and design at the heart of it.

A bleak period of discounting and streamlining of operations is most likely inevitable, but potentially there is an emerging space for designers who can be more agile in their approach, welcoming a newly IT upgraded audience with direct to consumer models and mapping of their own production and delivery timelines. I have no doubt we will see diverse initiatives, exciting platforms and creative solutions from the many talented Irish fashion and design professionals working in Ireland and internationally.

On a personal level, I have had to adapt very quickly to a change in my own pace of work and productivity, pivoting to focus on my two daughters and keeping them safe and happy. I am thankful everyday for the heath of my family and friends, both near and far.

I hope to be able to play a part in rebuilding our unique Irish fashion community. Advocating for Irish design, sustainable practice, thoughtful consumerism and encouraging interdisciplinary connectivity is at the core of my work and these actions are more important now than ever.”

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BEAUTY 

Andrea Horan photographed at home by Doreen Kilfeather

ANDREA HORAN, founder of Tropical Popical 

The term Beauty Queen gets bandied about a lot but nothing could be more fitting to describe Andrea Horan. Founder of Dublin’s multi award-winning Tropical Popical nail bar, Andrea is also a passionate activist (founder of The HunReal Issues), podcaster and powerful voice for women.

“A new study (by Kantar Media) has just declared pampering to be the most anticipated consumer activity once quarantine is lifted. And let’s be honest, the Irish are the biggest beauty lovers in the world. We love our tans, lashes and nails, thank god! So we may well expect a boom in business when things lift.

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A salon is a sanctuary... and we will be determined to continue to provide this vital community and connection for women.

But the only thing worse than not being able to open is starting back the wrong way, incurring all of our operating costs without being properly prepared for a cautious population who need to feel safe in a salon environment.

We see Tropical Popical as more than just a salon. It’s a sanctuary to escape to, a place for a mood lift as much as the file and polish, and we will be determined to continue to provide this vital community and connection for women.

It feels so upsetting to think that we have to remove the element of touch in our beauty experience – often this is the very reason a person seeks a treatment. As a nail bar we wear masks and gloves anyway. Now, we’ll install screens and continue to implement extraordinary hygiene practices but in light of this, as an industry we are going to see disposable products surge which is a disappointing development. 

We’ll see a slight rise in customers who have tried and tested home treatments cutting their visits to the salon, as we face into another recession, but the importance of community and connection will continue to bring people to the salon door. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the beauty industry is that it’s one of the most innovative industries in the world. And the Irish beauty industry is amongst the best and bravest of them!”

 

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FOOD

GAZ SMITH, chef and restaurant owner 

Gaz is the chef/owner of award-winning Michael’s and Little Mikes in Dublin. He started as a kitchen porter at the age of 15, going on to work in restaurants across London and Europe for years before returning home four years ago to open his own place. 

I haven’t slept properly in a month, trying to keep as many staff as I can at full salary, and continue to do business in a safe way. We are essentially operating as a drive-thru at the moment, where our customers book a collection time, swing by, we drop the food to their boot, and they pay by contactless card. I miss the contact part the most – my regulars know me. I miss the hugs, the chats, watching people’s smiling faces as they dine. That’s tough. 

I think the relationship between customer, restaurant and supplier has never been stronger than at the moment. 

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So many excellent small businesses, not just restaurants, have been decimated by an absolute curveball. Through no mistake of their own they may lose their business, but because of this we are seeing people coming together to support each other. I think the relationship between customer, restaurant and supplier has never been stronger than at the moment.

And even when restrictions are lifted, guests may still be wary of piling straight back in, so this take away/collection model might complement the restaurant game for a good while yet. 

In order to reboot the sector we need temporary relaxing of outdoor space regulations (and enclosed garden/terrace spaces) to allow us to increase our floor space and aid social distancing, we need very long term Covid-related 0% interest loans, vat reductions and debt write-offs. 

We’re a hardy bunch in this business, and I know this time of crisis will see a galvanising of relationships and plenty of creativity to ensure that we get back to those busy Saturday night services again and not lose hope.”

CREATIVE EVENTS 

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SHARON GREENE, Creative Entrepreneur

As the brains behind Queens of Neon, The Dublin Flea and countless other “bonkers and beautiful” projects, Sharon is one of Ireland's most dynamic and imaginative creatives.

“Both the Dublin Flea and Queens of Neon were born from the last recession, so I for one, am interested to see what potentialities may emerge out of this current crisis and upcoming uncertainty.

In my opinion, the system we were living under was hugely unsustainable. It was becoming almost impossible for smaller independent retailers, up-and-coming creatives, markets, and the event and nightlife industry to get a foothold in Dublin.

We know from the 2008 recession, that people in Ireland are highly resilient and resourceful and despite the hardship or probably because of it, are intensely creative, entrepreneurial and innovative in hard times.

Let's accept that things may not get back to ‘normal’ for the immediate future and let's use this time to get creative.

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I believe we have an exciting opportunity in the coming months to go back to the drawing board. Dublin City Council may be left with fewer resources to put plans into action after this but the Dublin City Development Plan is up for review and this is where we can lobby our Councillors to make better policies for a more liveable city.

Let’s accept that things may not get back to ‘normal’ for the immediate future and let’s use this time to get creative. Open up empty, vacant spaces. Let’s offer these spaces to people who have lost work and lost businesses and let them get busy. When people have time on their hands and space to experiment, innovation thrives."

TRAVEL 

THOMAS BREATHNACH, Travel writer 

Thomas is a regular contributor to Cara magazine and is a travel columnist for the Irish Examiner. He is also a seasoned travel correspondent for the Irish Independent and regularly appears on both RTÉ Today Show and Ireland AM.

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“The wanderlust is real. As a travel writer in lockdown, I’ve never felt the pangs for gallivanting more, with nostalgia sporadically stoking within me towards everything from a West Cork sunset to being price-gouged for gelato in Italy. For now, however, the only turbulence I’m encountering is a Covid-19 induced career break where I’m left with the albeit privileged dilemma of wondering when I’ll see the shimmering threshold of T2 again. 

As for everyone, there’s an uncertain flux when it comes to the future of travel and I find myself locked to BBC live each day devouring updates like a grim airport novel. But while most of our summer travel plans remain up in the air, there are finally green shoots returning to the travel industry. Austria is set to reopen its hotel doors at the end of May, tourism-dependant Greece is hoping to red-carpet tourists by July, while the Czech Republic has become the first country to allow its citizens to roam abroad again for non-essential travel. Czechs still have to wait for a neighbouring nation to allow them in, but it’s a welcome beacon of hope for all of us nonetheless.

But while how we travel in the interim may change, why we travel won’t. Staycations, sustainable tourism and ethical travel are all likely flourish

Once tourism does rebound, a new complexion for air travel (similar to a post-9/11 effect) is very much on the cards. Emirates, for example, is already testing passengers for Covid-19 at Dubai Airport while EasyJet plans to leave the middle seat of its aircraft empty once they emerge from the hangars. Expect increased travel times, obligatory face masks on planes and Naomi Campbell degrees of in-flight sanitising to reign as the norm, rather than the niche, in the near future, too.

But while how we travel in the interim may change, I sense why we travel won’t. Many of the emerging travel trends in recent times are likely to be ramped up, rather than dampened, by the coronavirus pandemic. Staycations, sustainable tourism and ethical travel are all likely flourish while rail travel (once reach the Continent) should continue to juggernaut its comeback. And there is a silver lining to all this chaos. In a world where global carbon emissions have tanked to a level that Greta Thunberg could only dream of, there will be rebooted planet for us all to return to and savour. I just can’t wait to breath it all in.”

INTERIOR DESIGN 

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Jacqueline Hall photographed at home by Jack Caffrey

JACQUELINE HALL, Interior designer 

With over 20 years’ experience in the design industry, Jacqueline Hall spent 15 of them working abroad in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Turkey and Brazil, before returning to Ireland to found her own studio in 2015.

“Average is over, mediocrity won’t do and I believe the most creative and customer-driven businesses in our industry will be the ones to emerge stronger from this. As customers will more clearly be able to distinguish between those that recognise them as the priority. Now, more than ever, a business must value its customer. There is only one boss after all, the customer, and they can fire everyone by spending their money elsewhere. 

As things start to move again we will inevitably see delays emerge with our supply chains. I like to think globally but act locally so we source as near to home as possible from brands that we admire. This way, I feel confident that we can react quickly when things ease up, and in doing so support our essential and much valued makers and designers, which is so important right now.

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Consumers will look with renewed interest at old furniture as the demand for vintage, repurposed and heirloom pieces has never been greater.

This whole experience has undoubtedly had a huge impact on the way people are living in their homes. The need for a separate workspace in every home will inevitably emerge as more people realise the advantages of working at least part of the time from home. 

Purchases will be considered and chosen more responsibly. Consumers will look with renewed interest at old furniture as the demand for vintage, repurposed and heirloom pieces has never been greater. Quality will once again be valued over mass-produced quantity.” 

HOSPITALITY 

John Brennan photographed at the Park Hotel by Don MacMonagle
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JOHN BRENNAN, Hotelier 

John is the Managing Director of Park Hotel Kenmare which he owns with his brother Francis. John and his wife Gwen also own Dromquinna Manor. John and Francis are familiar faces on TV as presenters of the RTE series ‘At Your Service’ which is due to start filming a new series in September. 

“Covid 19 is one of the biggest challenges the hospitality industry has ever faced. 

We’re hoping to reopen The Park as soon as allowed, but reduced to 50% capacity to begin, in order to observe physical distancing, and just for residents only – so we’ll miss the drawing room buzz with the usual outside guests coming for coffee and lunch.

We’re very conscious that we are lucky here at The Park with acres of gardens and green space, an outdoor gym, golf course on site and large rooms where guests can dine in comfort, apart. These amenities that we took for granted for years will now be our saving grace. 

We will see Irish people enjoying Ireland more than ever in 2020, and wondering why they ever went abroad.

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It will be exceedingly difficult for urban hotels who depend on corporate business, international coach tours and big city events such as concerts and sporting occasions. Where will they get new business from? Even small details such as the new lift rules - lifts will allow one person or a single family unit only so the logistics of running a large hospitality business is complicated.

Small family-run hotels, restaurants, guest houses will fare better as guests will feel protected. But bigger family-focussed hotels will struggle as Kids Clubs will not be acceptable. Families will be back to enjoying buckets and spades and how bad is that?

We all thought after 9/11 that people would never fly again, but they did. This will take longer, and consumers will be incredibly careful about how they spend their money. I predict that travel will become a more expensive and luxury experience. Certainly, we will see Irish people enjoying Ireland more than ever in 2020, and wondering why they ever went abroad.”

HAIR

MARK O’KEEFE, owner Brown Sugar hair salons 

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As the owner of seven salons including Brown Sugar, Sugar Cubed, Sugar Daddy Barbers and Sugar Coated, Mark is one of Ireland’s most well-known experts in the industry, with over 30 years’ experience.  

“Hairdressing, make-up and nails are all services you need to provide in person, in fairly close contact, so Coronavirus has hit our industry particularly hard. It is also an industry partly-driven by socialising and going out, which no one is doing right now.

We are still waiting for full guidelines from the Government, but at least at the outset I imagine availing of services will be less grab’n’go than they were before. We could be looking at backlogged appointments and waitlists, staggering the number of people in the salon, organising proper PPE equipment (masks will be a requirement), health declaration forms and virtual consultations may be required.  

Right now, we have a large community of people anxious to have their cut and colour done but on the flip-side of that, there will be clients who won’t feel comfortable returning to the salon, just yet. As a business owner, I have a duty of care to my staff and clients to make sure everyone feels safe and at ease – that will be my main priority when the government’s lockdown measures ease off. 

The silver lining I’ve found in this though is how close it has brought our community. I’ve seen such camaraderie across the industry, which will only serve to make us better and more informed, so hopefully, we’ll come back even stronger than we were before.”

Featured image by Doreen Kilfeather 

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Read more: IMAGEwrites: In the middle of lockdown, I quit all social media (even Instagram)

Read more: Meet the Irish designers bringing street style to the lockdown

Read more: Coronavirus Commune: meet the families who found a way to thrive through the crisis

 

 

 

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