Irish Design Spotlight: Seeking Judy
Designing her own clothes since the age of 15, Megan McGuigan has turned a passion project into a successful brand with her own bricks and mortar shop called Seeking Judy, in George’s Street Arcade in Dublin. Here she tells us more about her vision and why Rihanna is her dream customer.
Tell us about you and your brand?
I am a fashion and textile designer from Dundalk, currently based in Dublin. I have a store called Seeking Judy in Georges St. Arcade, Dublin. These days, the shop also doubles as an office/studio space as I am there most days and tend to get a lot of admin/knitting/designing done between customers. I have a bigger studio in Dundalk where I have my machines, make garment samples, shoot the lookbooks and hold stock. I am also a Creative Spark Dundalk print studio member and since joining, I have been able to learn and experiment a lot with printing styles and of course, learn from the amazing technicians and members there.
Seeking Judy was originally started when I was 15 and began as a way to make some pocket money. I put a few etches on T-shirts and would sell them at local markets and pop-ups. I decided to study fashion design at NCAD to learn garment construction and eventually grow the brand and business. I graduated from NCAD in 2019 with a BA honours degree and an international degree from LCI Barcelona. After graduating, the plan was to go to New York to intern on a graduate visa. Covid put a stop to those plans as all visas were revoked under Trump. And so, I decided to restart the brand with the extra time I had. Fabric shops were closed so a lot of the earlier work was made with found materials and reworking older garments I already had.
I began experimenting with illustrative styles and landed on one which was very fun, colourful and nostalgic. On reflection, I was inspired by the idea of escapism, inventing a happier world than the one we were all experiencing at the time. I started with nature, and the idea that everything around us was alive and had its own personality. I’ve had a lot of fun with this idea since and anyone familiar with my work will know that there are eyes and faces everywhere!
Going forward, I’m excited to bring this world alive through other mediums besides clothing. I’m very lucky that being self-employed and with limited funds means that I have had to do a lot of things myself – photography, set design, painting and designing the shops – it’s given me a whole host of skills, and a really strong concept of the world these things live in.
What is your mission?
Short term, to create high-quality products which last a lifetime. To expand my range so that if my customers wanted, they could buy all their clothing here – head-to-toe SJ! We want to continue to act responsibly, ethically and sustainably when it comes to designing, sourcing, and selling our products. Long term, I want to create an immersive world. I want to host events and collaborate with other Irish artists and designers to bring meaningful experiences to Dublin and Ireland. I don’t want this to stop at clothing. There is so much talent here in Ireland. I want to collaborate, promote and support other creators, and try to show that Ireland punches well above its weight when it comes to culture and creativity. This needs to be a participatory thing between artists and the public. SJ and fashion have been my avenue for self-expression for a long time now but the wider goal is to support and encourage self-expression and creativity with everyone.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I’ve always been interested in fabric and textiles. My grandad had a clothes shop as did my mam and dad. I’ve grown up around clothes. So being creative as a kid, I always gravitated towards clothing and originally wanted to set up a vintage online shop instead at 15. However, I really had to toss a coin in college to decide whether I would do Textiles Art and Artifact (TAA), an Art course, or Fashion Design – part of the design school. I decided on fashion because of the practical skills such as pattern making and construction. It was a good choice. This summer however I plan to do a residency where I can take some time away to explore textiles in a looser way. I’m trying to find the balance of commercial (the design world) and full freedom of expression – textile art/ sculpture.
What kind of items do you stock?
Knitted jumpers, hoodies, sweatshirts, t-shirts, scarves, hats, socks, fine art prints, and most recently an accessory line of handbags in varying sizes and uses.
What new brands or items are on your radar?
KNWLS STUDIOS, Chopova Lowena, FANCi, Paula Canovasdelvas, Charlie Constantinou, Gui Rosa, Marta Mangano. My next trainer purchase will probably be Asics and I’m loving the colourful tights/patterned tights trend. I’m a hoarder because so many old clothes and accessories are great for reworking into new pieces. That’s been my thing for a while now.
Was funding a concern when starting out?
Of course. I started this brand with the money I made from selling off my own possessions. So anything is possible, but also the scale was very different back then – it was just a bit of fun. Quantities were low and I had no overheads. Nevertheless, I saved the money I made from that and restarted the brand with it. It’s only now that this is a business that funding is a bigger issue. Factories have minimums so it costs a lot to put one style into production, samples cost a lot of money. Social media companies want you to pay to promote your posts. Everything costs, and as a small business it’s tough… but it is what it is. There are grants out there, and it’s been my New Year’s resolution to apply to as many as possible so wish me luck, please!
What’s the best business advice you’ve gotten?
“Spend more time working on the business than in the business.” I’m trying to implement that now.
Who do you look to on social media for style inspiration?
@1grannary – students and up-and-coming designers. @Eli1ah – good industry advice and quotes (music-oriented, but still applicable). @Antwerpmemedepartment for a lol.
What’s your best fashion purchase?
I thrifted a YSL coat in Dublin for €75. That was a good day.
What other Irish brands do you love?
Laoise Carey Studio, Rioncarnation, Rashhiiid, Colin Horgan, Robyn Lynch, Hope Macaulay, Jessica Anne Harte, Richard Malone, Barbara Bennett, Lia Cowan Design, Mihai Mar.
What’s the most useful learning you’ve had since setting up your business?
Take care of yourself. Sometimes taking time off and resting is the best thing for your business.
What’s been the proudest moment so far?
No moment drastically stands out and I’d be hesitant to focus too much on one thing I’ve done because there are so many little steps that lead up to those bigger moments. I feel really proud when a new product is introduced to the brand because it feels like a milestone. The last new items I introduced were the bags and the new accessory line. I’m proud to be in the Arcade. I’m proud to get interviews and features such as this and any time I see someone wearing a piece on the street it makes me feel very happy. On a little bit of a cheesier note, recently I started to imagine telling my younger self that I get to do this for a living, trying to practice gratitude on days it’s not as easy, and that makes me feel really proud because making money from your art and creativity always seemed like such an out of reach idea. Most of us were told growing up to think of a “real” job. So I’m just proud I get to call this a job!
If I could have anyone wear my designs it would be… BAD GAL RIRI DUH! And, I’ve been told my designs remind people of the flower boy era! And Tyler is the GOAT, so Tyler if you’re reading this slide in my DMs for some free SJ.
Photography by Megan McGuigan and Joshua Mulholland.