THE home textiles brand Kushti has been a long time coming for Blarney woman Deirdre O’Sullivan, a boho interiors guru, whose online business sells gorgeous cushions, handwoven baskets, wall hangings and Moroccan rugs.
She is the latest small business to feature in our
Straight out of school, she studied art, craft and design in Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa before trying out Interior Architecture in Griffith College Dublin for a year.
Deirdre then switched to Interior Design at Griffith College Cork, prior to opening her own shop, Style 25 (when she was 25 years old), specialising in upcycled furniture and vintage interiors on Cork’s Drawbridge Street. With upcycling soaring in popularity, she eventually closed the shop and now Style 25, based in Blarney, focuses solely on hand- painted kitchens.
She and her fellow tradeswoman Lorraine – who has been on board for the past seven years - are an all-female team which is unusual in such a physical trade.
“You get curious comments everywhere you go in your work clothes,” admits Deirdre.
The Style 25 business is booming but with Kushti she is future planning, acknowledging she’d like to start a family some day and working from home with an online business could be a practicality.
“I’m 34 now and I love my job but I have the body of an 80-year-old, I’d say, from all the pulling, lifting, dragging and painting! Lockdown made me re-evaluate things. I was thinking if I could start something up now while I have the opportunity, it could be a good thing for me in the long term.”
Ethics are important to Deirdre so she needed to find suppliers who would fit in with her values.
“During lockdown, I spent a lot of time researching suppliers all over the world, trying to find ones that match my Fairtrade and sustainable ethics,” she explains.
“The cushions come from India, the baskets from an amazing supplier all across Africa and the rugs come from Morocco.
“The rugs are mostly vintage but the ones that aren’t are made in co-ops in small villages in Morocco. The suppliers make sure all the cotton plants are grown sustainably and they’re picked and dyed naturally.
“The basket supplier is really well known for being fair trade, sustainable and artisanal. All their workers work from home, they don’t work in workshops or anything like that.
“Their houses are checked to make sure the environment they’re working in is comfortable for them and they get a good price for their work as well. The suppliers are quite transparent and I wanted that.”
Deirdre took out a loan with Micro Finance Ireland to buy stock and availed of mentorship with her Local Enterprise Board to help set up the business. She launched her website, kushtilife.com on a memorable date this year – May 24, her birthday.
“I was naïve enough at the start, even though I’ve already set up a business. I suppose I forgot how difficult it was at the beginning. I got caught up with the loveliness of buying beautiful textiles and setting up a website. But the hard work kicks in now, advertising it and pushing it.
“When it comes to marketing I need to take time out to learn how to do it. The digital side of things is mind-boggling,” she says.
The items she stocks very much reflect her own boho style.
“I’m obsessed!” she admits.
“I have to pare back my style, especially in my home. It can get kinda loud, like! I’m a magpie to colour and to textiles. I think textiles are amazing for adding personality and warmth to a home. They’re like art really but very tactile art. I’ve always been drawn to rugs, especially Moroccan rugs.”
So much so, she made a trip to Morocco a few years ago.
“My love of Moroccan textiles was always there and that is what fuelled my trip to Morocco. It was such an inspiring place, it was incredible and the people there were lovely as well. It’s such a visual delight, walking into the markets.”
Deirdre’s own home is a great advert for Kushti, and all in a limited space, as she lives in a mobile home on her parents’ land, where she hopes to build. Dotted around are boho accessories like cushions, baskets and a unique bedspread, all colourful but all tasteful.
If you’re wondering about choosing the ideal Christmas gift, Deirdre has the answer.
“The baskets are amazing. They’re like pieces of art in themselves. They can be used as fruit bowls but I wouldn’t use them practically at all; I’d put them on the wall, they’re so beautiful. They come with a tag which has a picture of the person who made it and a little bit about that person, and how working with the supplier has helped them improve their life. It’s a gorgeous little gift and you can relate personally to the person who made it. That’s important because we’ve definitely lost that with mass consumerism.
“We have lovely fans too; they look gorgeous on a wall for a nice pop of colour, and budget-wise they would suit most people.”
And the most popular item so far?
“There’s a yellow pom-pom cushion that everyone loves. That’s flying out the door,” she says.
Type Kushti into Google and you would be led to believe it is an Indian martial art, but for Deirdre is has a different meaning: “Kushti is slang for comfy. Pure kushti is really comfy. I like the way it sounds.”
In the immediate future, Deirdre is hoping digital marketing students may be able to give her a hand next semester, while further travel is also on her wish list.
“I do hope that in the next couple of years – when, fingers crossed, Covid isn’t such a big factor – I’d be able to travel and meet the people who are making the products. I’d love to go back to Morocco and I’d love to go to India too. I love the stock and I feel passionate about supporting these amazing artisans.”