Interview by womenfolk

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Nineteenthirty is a design studio owned by designer Bronagh Griffin who primarily specialises in luxurious menswear. The Nineteenthirty label designs & produces exclusive bespoke shirts, scarves ties and pocket squares. Bronagh trained in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and has worked as a designer and brand creator for over 25 years.

We chatted to Bronagh about her work/life balance and her advice for people starting out.

Tell us a bit about your business Nineteenthirty, and why did you decide to start it?

I have worked for myself for the last 20 years and for the first 10 I was a design consultant for companies across Northern Ireland and Invest NI, including a shirt company, for which I developed 5 brands. About 10 years ago as the manufacturing was disappearing from NI, I decided to launch a shirt brand partly for work-life balance and also so that I could control the design aesthetic. Nineteenthirty launched right in the middle of a recession and was named after the period of the great depression ( I believed they designed their way out of it - so much creativity happened then.) Initially, it was a wholesale brand that retailed to 25 retailers across the UK but as the recession bit it became a very difficult market, so I set up a pop-up shop and for the last five years it retailed through a branded shop on the Lisburn Road Belfast. I also design accessories and gifts. As time went on a large part of the business became bespoke, personalised and made to measure shirts and the shop has now changed into a studio and bespoke shirts are by appointment. Gifts and accessories will be sold online and working from a studio gives me the flexibility to do design consultancy work again which really excites me as there are great opportunities in the pipeline.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Working for myself since my first daughter was born has in itself been an achievement.
Having shirts that I have designed in Saks 5th Avenue, Selfridges & selling in Scandinavia Europe the US and Japan.
Being chosen for New Beats at the Pitti Uomo Menswear show in Florence.
Being able to sustain a creative career.
Mentoring the next generation.

How do you manage your work/life balance?

I have compromised a lot, and a lot of my business decisions have been to ensure that I am there for my two daughters and my husband. It is difficult for any working mother, but I am the daughter of a professional musician who inspired me, she once told me ' you have to follow your dreams as it gives your children permission to follow theirs'. My children are now well into their teens and hopefully I have done that. 

Any exciting projects you’re working on at the moment?

I am currently redefining my business and the one thing that I love about working for myself is that you can have a portfolio of different projects which can be diverse and challenging.  So currently I am rebuilding my website, which will concentrate on the bespoke shirt service and our personalised shirts; our accessories line is being redesigned and that will be sold online and I have some great consultancy projects, so it is all looking very positive, but I am building slowly to ensure I get the business framework right and of course still chasing that work-life balance.

Do you have any advice for women looking to start up a business in Northern Ireland?

Do what you know, but really analyse the market, seek to do something unique, either in product, delivery or customer service.  Know your strengths and weaknesses. Don't be afraid to ask for help.


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