Feature / News

IrelandsEye: Blending heritage and fresh design

The carefree girl and her new season sweaters are a perfect match. Like the model, the knits are exquisite and quintessentially Irish.

They have been filmed for the IrelandsEye website and provide a captivating  introduction to the  Dublin knitwear label that will make its Fashion Exposed Now debut in February.

FEN will be among more than a dozen trade shows – the others in Europe and North America – at which IrelandsEye will exhibit in 2020 and all have been carefully targeted by sales and marketing manager, Kate O’Sullivan.

Kate O’Sullivan, IrelandsEye

The vivacious Dubliner is a rarity in her field: passionate about her job, thoroughly knowledgeable about the company’s operations and not a hint of glib management speak.  It’s understandable: she’s a third-generation member of the family at the heart of IrelandsEye.

“My paternal grandparents, James and Bernie, started the company in the garage of their home in 1988 and it’s now run by my father and uncle,” Kate explains.

“James was an engineer and during the 1980s, when there were a lot of knitting factories in Ireland, he worked for an organisation similar to today’s government agency, Enterprise Ireland. He travelled all over the country, fixing knitting machines and training workers how to use them.

“Then one day he thought: How about a knitting factory of my own? I’m one of 13 grandchildren and most of us have worked at IrelandsEye during our summer holidays.”

Today, the O’Sullivans run a state of the art factory and export to more than 20 countries worldwide. Their label’s allure is obvious: luxuriously soft, hand-finished women’s and men’s collections that blend Ireland’s traditional knitwear heritage with contemporary styling.

Key creator is Aisling Duff,  who graduated with a BA honours degree from Dublin’s National College of Art and Design in 2016. Her graduation collection, featuring sumptuous gelato-coloured tops and accessories in felted wool yarns, was a knockout.

“My father spotted it at the graduation show,” says Kate. “Aisling joined us as an assistant designer soon after, then rose to head designer. She’s an amazing talent.

”Most of our knitwear is made from 100 per cent Merino wool, though we do some pieces blending Merino with five per cent cashmere or cotton.”

Kate O’Sullivan also holds an honours degree. She gained hers from Dublin’s Trinity College where she majored in microbiology.

“I had a huge interest in science and ended up spending two years in medical sales. I enjoyed the work, but at the back of my mind, I was always drawn to the  family business.

”Almost all our knitwear is produced in-house. When the 2008 global recession hit,  90 per cent of our production was moved to China, but thankfully, we were able to reverse that process – so important for quality control and supporting our local community. We employ 50 people and many of them have been with us for two decades.”

The inspiration for the company’s name is also local. Ireland’s Eye is a small uninhabited island off Dublin’s coast. It plays host to numerous seabirds and is renowned for its unspoiled beauty.

Story by Zelda Cawthorne

Fashion Exposed Now

Discover IrelandsEye Knitwear and their latest collection at Fashion Exposed Now, Australia’s only dedicated womenswear buying event. Registration is free and includes access local and international labels, seminars and round table sessions to help build your business. 

Sunday 2 – Monday 3 February 2020
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne

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