30th Oct 2022
Jacinta Caraher is the woman behind Purple Peach Bridal, an award-winning label helping Irish brides bring their unique style to their wedding day. A hopeless romantic, her dream is to offer brides an alternative option to other perhaps more traditional wedding gowns. Here she shares more about her business and why Blake Lively is her dream client.
Tell us about you and your business
My name is Jacinta Caraher and I have been designing gowns for over 20 years. I graduated from Limerick School of Fashion and got stuck right in setting up my own business in 1998 – it was a much different industry then to what it is now. Being a hopeless romantic, it’s not surprising that I was drawn toward bridalwear, my dream being to offer brides an alternative to traditional gowns. My signature style – timeless and contemporary pieces – is a product of years of honing my craft and being open to experimenting. Setting up your own business is always a gamble, but I was lucky. I won the Designer of the Year award early on which was a brilliant boost for a small local business in Ballybay, Co Monaghan. That really put Purple Peach on the map from the start… that kind of publicity is hard to come by, especially for a new business just starting out.
What is your mission?
The mission behind the brand is to design alternative bridalwear, to cater for brides looking for something unique and truly attuned to their personality and taste without compromise. I always want to create pieces sustainably, however quality is foremost on my mind when designing. For years this has been a very difficult balance as sustainable fabrics were hard to come by and much more expensive which is not always an option for a customer on a budget. Recent advances in the industry have made my ideal mission within reach. With new fabric technology and new methods of recycling old textiles, I can create new collections that are sustainable and have a lower impact on the environment. Rose petal silk, milk silk and fabrics made from wood pulp and even mushrooms make for an inspirational palette and allow me to stay true to my dream – alternative bridal pieces, small impact without compromise.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
I think I was about seven when someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up and I said “fashion designer”! I started designing clothes for my beloved collection of My Little Ponies and then later moved on to designing my bedroom and redesigning and tie-dyeing over half of my wardrobe (with some horrific results!). But I’ve never wavered from wanting to work in the world of design. Now, I’m so grateful to be a part of the movement toward a greener industry… there are exciting times to come I believe.
What kind of items do you stock?
I specialise in one-of-a-kind, handmade, bespoke pieces. It’s important to me to sit with a bride and get to know her, get a feel for her style and taste and personality, so that when I start working with her on a sketch – discussing fabrics and textures – her personality will shine through her gown. At my home studio, I also stock a selection of pieces: from double-sided satin ball gown-type wedding dresses to tapestry-inspired, colourful ensembles as well as a range of handmade veils. Purple Peach also stocks a range of repurposed, handmade jewellery to match. I have recently poured a lot of time into trying to build my social media presence and the items stocked at Purple Peach can be found on both my Instagram page and my website.
What new brands or items are on your radar?
August Night; Kalm Swimwear; Veja; Connerives; Hannah Fiedler.
Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
Of course, it was – it still is many years later! There is a reason why not everyone starts a business; it’s not easy. However, I find that as a creative person, I am able to come up with different ways to get funding. When first starting out I applied for leader funding. One of the conditions of this was restoring a building in the locality, which played into the romantic idea of selling beautiful dresses from a beautiful building. We restored one of the oldest parts of Ballybay whilst simultaneously launching Purple Peach. Without that funding, my dream could not have happened. It was a great start for the business!
Best business advice you’ve gotten
The important thing is to “be the expert in your field”. This has always stuck with me, as I believe in constantly improving and learning new things. This is how I have discovered so many new fabrics and it’s helped me to come up with the concept for my new collection. If I keep learning about new fabrics, new designs and new concepts, the rest will follow. When it comes to my business I’m never afraid to reach out for help either.
Favourite sustainable style accounts to follow online
Rozanna Purcell; MadeEco London; Pursuing Andie Vintage; Dirty Fabolous Vintage; Fabric Romance; Green Outlook; The Local Monaghan.
Best fashion purchase
A Mimi Fru Fru dress, which was a brilliant charity shop find! The tailoring is exquisite. I also have a stunning Dior skirt which I thrifted. You’ve got to love a good vintage shop find!
Other sustainable Irish brands you love
Lou Brennan Design; McNutt Tweeds; Millis. Another account I love is The Useless Project. While not necessarily an Irish brand, I love the idea behind the project and how innovative their approach to recycling, upcycling and saving the environment is. I’m also greatly inspired by the work of the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun.
Most useful learning since setting up a business
Knowing your strong points and not being afraid to admit where you need help or guidance. I have reached out to women in business networks and the local enterprise office previously, and I found them extremely supportive when it comes to mentorship and organising think tanks for female entrepreneurs. Remaining calm and true to myself has allowed me to build a successful brand in a tough industry, especially in the last few years. The pandemic changed the landscape of business as we previously knew it and I needed to learn a completely new skillset in a very short space of time.
Proudest moment so far
Being named Designer of the Year! Winning that title at such an early stage of my career was a really proud moment for me. The winning design was my own wedding dress and that made it all the more special. It was a surreal moment seeing my own wedding dress on the catwalk modelled by the beautiful Audrey Nugent. More recently, I’d say one of my proudest moments was last year’s shoot for our new collection. We pulled off an incredible beach shoot and I even managed to get shots with the model and my horse Tyson, an image I have been dreaming of creating for a while!
I want my brand to be remembered for…
When people think Purple Peach, I want them to think of alternative, ethereal, fashion-forward bridalwear without compromise. The more I learn about sustainable fabrics, the more excited I get for the future, and I want my brand to be at the forefront of change in the fashion industry. I also consciously design pieces that can be worn again, which is something that’s not often taught in bridalwear. But being able to rewear something so special, that reminds you of your special day – be it trousers or a top – will make you feel amazing. Life is a series of memories, I would love to be remembered for being part of a bride’s special memory of her day.
If I could dress anyone it would be…
Blake Lively, wearing mushroom leather at the Met Gala next year… I can see it now! I love the fact that she is not afraid to wear alternative designs and she is simply stunning!
Photography by Martin Mullarkey, @bigbeard_photography