In the press
Nineteenthirty Atelier, Menswear
Nineteenthirty is a limited edition menswear label with a shop and atelier in Belfast. It is the workplace of designer Bronagh Griffin. Nineteenthirty produces exclusive ready to wear limited-edition men's shirts, scarves and ties and stocks accessories and gifts
Unlike her peers, who included high society milliner Philip Treacy, Bronagh was keen on making childrenswear. “I was interested in artistry and process, and felt I could create a story with children’s clothes. Menswear and childrenswear are the same in that you create an image and translate it into fashion. With womenswear, the silhouette takes over and the content can get forgotten.” Always strategic, Bronagh tailored her graduate collection to the US market, as the external examiner was one Frank Rizzo from Parsons College of New York. “I designed a collection for the Americans based on Oliver Twist and wanted to do something from Northern Ireland so I begged some Irish linen from Ulster Weavers.” Modestly, she says now she did ‘OK’, but wasn’t the star.
Bronagh explains: “Some of my classmates went to work for Armani and Burberry, and then there was Philip Treacy, who is the most talented person I’ve ever met and although his hats are amazing, his dresses were wow.
But what he did was niche, albeit a beautiful niche. Bronagh wanted to be mainstream and commercial. “I got a job earning €50 (£42) a week designing jeans for Portugal. It taught me things I didn’t learn at college, and a brilliant machinist showed me how to put things together. With handmade clothes, you could ease a curve into the seam, but not with mass production.” Next, Bronagh worked for a supplier for the womenswear label A/Wear.
By this time she had met John, the man who would become her husband. An engineer, he got a job in the north of England, and Bronagh followed . “I couldn’t live without him and we got married when I was 24. I couldn’t help myself, in fact, I ran up the aisle to escape my maiden name, McBrierty — too much of a mouthful for people in Yorkshire.”
In England, Bronagh’s career blossomed. “John went to the Midlands and I got a job designing babywear for the company supplying Next, Boots and Mothercare.”
The ideas that helped Bronagh get the job included injecting some life — and colour — into the then conventional pink, blue and yellow baby fashion palette.
After a stint designing for Coats Viyella and then for a large workwear firm, where the most interesting commission was creating Qatar ceremonial uniform with a British colonel (“wonderful gold braiding”), Bronagh and her husband headed home to Belfast in 1995. She had two daughters, Hannah, now 14 and Emily, now 10, and continued to create, design and develop her ideas.
With tailoring skills and experience and after working as a design consultant for over 10 years, with INI, numerous companies and Glenaden Shirts in Londonderry on her CV, Bronagh was in a good position to capitalise on her background when the recession threatened her job. “Money was difficult, although we’d sold to Selfridges and I’d got shirts into Saks on Fifth Avenue. The brands were sold to an English company,
As Bronagh says, when tough times arrive, you can go two ways. “After six nights of trauma, I decided not to get bitter as that leads to grey hair, so I decided to set up on my own.”
Four years ago, Bronagh set up shop, equipped with a can-do philosophy, a vibrant creativity and a commitment to quality. She says: “I wanted to keep value in terms of fabric so I brought in Italian fabric and added details. I tell stories and wanted to create something unique and of value .
Of the future Bronagh claims excitement for the challenge ,'We are now on our way and we are expanding our made to measure side and creating our own fabrics and accessories.If only there were more hours in a day'.
WITH the recession continuing to hammer retailers in South Belfast, one local fashion designer is weathering the storm by moulding her business model to the market and embracing the trend for ‘pop-up’ venues, in her exclusive new store.
Bronagh Griffin, the creative mind behind the luxury label Nineteenthirty which produces cutting edge and (very) limited edition shirts and menswear accessories, is confident the pop-up model – being used to such good effect by restaurants and retailers alike – will boost her already well-established brand and breath new life into Belfast’s very own ‘Bond Street’ – the Lisburn Road.
Despite the economic downturn in recent years, the road remains the spiritual home of boutique fashion in the city, and the perfect location to bring the Nineteenthirty brand onto the customer retail market.
Bronagh, who originally hails from the Lansdowne area in North Belfast is already at the coalface of the Lisburn Road fashion scene. However with her design studio above ground and her sales done online, casual customers may not have known she is one of the leading lights in serious quality menswear.
However, with the new store, open this week until January 7, Bronagh will be stepping out from her behind the scenes role to present her jaw-dropping designs to walk-in customers looking for a Christmas gift that is a well-groomed head and shoulders above rest. This is due to each of her designs available as one of only up to 65 (and some just 25) created. The collections are personally themed and dripping in back story class – from the elegant yet edgy recession-era gangster style ‘Speakeasy’ range, to the ‘Roadtrip’ shirts, bringing to mind the dusty glamour of Route 66 and the spirit of American adventure. Each design in each collection has a tale behind the final look, to which Bronagh applied the skills she honed at both Dominican College in Fortwilliam, and Dublin’s National College of Art and Design.
“Having spent years working for a design consultants, and developing brands for a Derry-based firm which was eventually sold to a company in England, I realised that there were more or less no menswear shirts being exclusively designed in this part of the world. I saw the gap in the market for Nineteenthirty to fill,” she told the South Belfast News.
“I knew people still wanted exclusivity and luxury so I thought the limited edition approach was the way forward.”
Sleeping, living and breathing fashion has helped Bronagh remain a tailor’s cut above the competition as when she’s not in her studio she can be found in couture capitals such as Paris, London and New York, studying up on the styles which are often years ahead of what’s available in the Irish high street.
“Within three months of launching the brand I broke even, so knew I had tapped into something special,” Bronagh continues.
“Yet to a certain extent on the Lisburn Road no-one knew who I was, so I thought about bringing the label to shopfront level. After talking to some shop unit owners I fell in love with the pop-up idea. It allows me to test the retail waters and raises brand awareness. If it’s the success I hope, then looking to the future I’ll be considering something on a more permanent level.”
Gone are the days when ‘pop-up’ meant stores flogging cheap Christmas decorations, as now luxury brands, like Bronagh’s are joining specialist gift stores, and restaurants as a temporary phenomenon, whose ‘get it while it’s available’ aura is proving attractive to customers.
Pop-ups are also being hailed as a perfect model to overcome the constraints of recession through temporary trading, limiting the risk for uncertain retailers. However the dreaded ‘R word’ holds no fear for Bronagh who is one of the few entrepreneurs to use it to her advantage, even when selling shirts which are by no means cheap.
“This financial climate has meant I’ve grown the business organically, and almost in an ‘old fashioned’ way. I see it as a challenge that can be overcome, but it’s something you have to really work hard at and put a huge effort into.”
That effort is continuing to pay off with Nineteenthirty’s temporary doors now open on the Lisburn Road’s ‘style mile’. In true exclusive fashion, Bronagh launched the pop-up with a chic in-store party last week where visitors got a new hands-on flavour of the designs, which are so limited edition they are actually numbered so wearers know they have donned a work of two-fold cotton art they are unlikely to find on the back of a fellow reveller this party season.
Like each of the designs in her collections, Bronagh’s pop-up won’t be around for long, but onlookers are hoping that by combining exclusivity with recession-savvy business nous, Nineteenthirty could be the beginning of the Lisburn Road’s rebirth as the boutique capital of Belfast and beyond.
More details on Bronagh’s brand are available online at www.nineteenthirty.co.uk
ULSTER TATLER 2011.
Luxury menswear label Nineteenthirty pops up in Belfast
Nineteenthirty is one of Belfast kept secrets – until now! The luxury menswear label is owned by Belfast designer Bronagh Griffin, who has worked for many years as a consultant designer, brand developer and trend-forecaster for national and international brands. She launched her own menswear label, www.nineteenthirty.co.uk online two years ago.
On 25th November Nineteenthirty will open its first pop-up shop, at 340 Lisburn Road for 6 weeks and bring Bronagh’s luxurious range of men’s shirts, scarves and ties and brand ethos, direct to the customer within her stylish store.
Bronagh is influenced by the spirit of the 1930’s, that very creative period that coupled tradition and modernism, hence the name of her label! Her shirts tell a story under three main themes; Speakeasy, Voyager and Roadtrip and are always a talking point for those wearing them.
Nineteenthirty, shirts, ties and scarves are ethically manufactured in Europe to the highest quality. The shirts are limited edition and are either 1/50 or 1/65 and are marked with a uniquely numbered thumbprint just like a printed work of art. Scarves and ties are also numbered and each style is produced in quantities of no more than 25. All the shirts are made using two fold cottons and the fabrics are from the finest Italian mills and fit immaculately; the silk used for scarves and ties is in its purest form.
Bronagh has said of the new venture:
“ I am so excited to be bringing the label direct to my Northern Ireland customers and getting the chance to meet customers face-to-face through the pop-up shop experience. My online customer base continues to grow in the UK and Europe, but this way, I get to raise awareness of my label at home and hopefully attract some more home-grown fans of my designs. I look forward advising customers on the perfect fit and style of Nineteenthirty shirt to suit them or a loved one for Christmas.”
Other stylish stocking fillers and treats will also be on sale in-store which Bronagh has sourced locally and abroad. The pop-up shop will stay open until 7th January and many of the shirts will be on offer at a special in-store price for a limited time e.g. those on offer in-store at £135, normally retail online at £150. So it’s is worthwhile calling in before Christmas.
Nineteenthirty will open every day from 10am. Check online for late night opening times and further information at www.nineteenthirty.co.uk
Meet the woman behind one of NI's most exclusive shirt makers
PUBLISHED 07/12/2010 Belfast Telegraph
Bronagh Griffin, founder of Nineteenthirty
Today I’m on my way to London, which only happens every other month. With a coffee in hand, I join the many red-eyed travellers who head south-east to the big smoke to do business.
I need to get my fabric production sorted, so I head up to the West End to meet my Italian fabric agent to discuss designs, costs and lead-times. The mill I use is the best, in terms of quality and colouration. It also produces the best digital prints. They have the finest photographic quality with crystal-clear definition. I love colour so working with a team that understands it is essential. As soon as we have produced one collection of fabrics we start |the artwork for the next; it is a constant process.
I meet Liberty of London to view their fabric collection. I love this company. The brand is ‘so on the money’ as Simon Cowell would say. We mix their fabrics with our exclusive prints to give an added twist.
My sales agents, Gary and Daniela, are the next on my list, so over lunch we plan the strategy for the following months. These guys are always full of craic and banter. There is nothing they don’t know about the men’s retail market in the UK.
They are also patient enough to wait for a small brand to grow. Independent high-end retailers in the current economic climate need a lot of support, encouragement and great customer service.
We have 20 retailers and hope to grow this number over the next year.
Heaven, I am at one of my favourite places in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum. As soon I have one collection sorted I need to get ideas and inspiration for the next.
We always have new designs in the pipeline and each collection has a story — Speakeasy, Voyager, Road Trip, so I am constantly looking for new ideas.
You can watch what is happening in the shops or on the catwalk as well as looking comparatively at other brands but I like building an idea from research, to drawings and stories and then create something unique.
I don’t travel every day, a lot of days I’m in the studio, project managing the collections, talking to wholesale customers and packing orders.
A new aspect of my job is marketing the website. So I regularly blog, tweet, and write on our Facebook page. This is challenging but I’m getting there.
I have a lovely family and need to be a mum as well as working. My days are very busy, hectic but never dull and I wouldn’t have it any other way.