Setting her designs on reviving iconic Irish garment

Hot on the heels of her appearance at a major international trade show last week, EMMA CONNOLLY chats to Oysterhaven based Emma Quinn, who has designed modern smocks which are attracting attention at home and abroad
Setting her designs on reviving iconic Irish garment
Emma Quinn. Picture Adrian Neville

A BUSY mum-of-three has just launched her range of Irish smocks — and has already had interest from as far away as Japan.

Born in the US, Emma Quinn lives in Oysterhaven, near Kinsale, having grown up in the UK and Australia.

Her background is sales and marketing, and more recently interiors when she had her own furniture importing business. However, she always wanted more ownership of a business and was inspired to make the dramatic switch to the world of fashion through a combination of Irish weather and a busy family life — both of which, she feels, suited themselves to a smock!

Traditionally the smock is an Irish-inspired garment, but Emma said of late she could only find those made elsewhere and so spotted a gap in the market and went for it.

Describing herself as a ‘wild Atlantic woman’, she said she took inspiration from her surroundings and started out a few months back by creating a pattern and putting her signature twist on the iconic Irish garment.

Her interpretation is more shapely and has a collar, which, combined, she insists makes it something that could be worn out to dinner as easily as it could be on the school run.

The smock, she said, is all about bridging the gap: “It’s the wardrobe staple that is there for you when there’s no time to over-think.”

Emma Quinn's smocks. Picture: Adrian Neville
Emma Quinn's smocks. Picture: Adrian Neville

Initially, she had her creations, which she’s called the Iris Valentine Smock, made locally.

“But it quickly became clear that that wasn’t going to be viable so to keep prices commercial and realistic they’re now made in a European factory. That’s actually the only sad part of my experience so far and highlights that there’s not a lot of Irish manufacturing going on. It would be ideal to bring that back at some point,” she said.

She currently makes a light weight denim style in a variety of colours, which costs €110, as well as a Magee tweed from Donegal, which is made to order and costs €280. They all come in S, M, L and XL.

The smocks made their official debut at the trade show, Showcase 2019, at the RDS, last week where she had interest from buyers in Germany, Italy and even Japan.

Getting this far, and so quickly, is quite the achievement. But Emma is emphatic in her praise for the local Enterprise Board for all their support.

“It’s one thing to have an idea, but another thing entirely to get it over the line. Their mentoring was a wonderful help as well as their grant aid, which allowed me to get to the trade show where I had mentors with me all the time to help me along the way,” she said.

“Starting up, it’s as much about the process as it is the product and once you learn the process you can see the potential for lots of possibilities and that’s really where the Enterprise Board came in to get this over the line.”

Recently becoming a single mother, her children are aged 11, 9, and 5, and the family includes two dogs and a cat. Emma said: “Living on the Wild Atlantic Way, I’m exposed to the elements and just like life events, you can’t control them but it’s how you deal with them.”

That’s about looking to the future with positivity, as she already has plans for expansion, which include a smock dress and smocks for kids.

Looks like the smock might be a game-changer for us all.

Currently available in Monorail in the Winthrop Street Arcade and Granny’s Bottom Drawer in Kinsale.

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