At least since my high school years, I have loved anything and everything Irish. It is in part because of this that I was drawn to a wee Etsy shop called Bonzie, just over two years ago. At the time, I was still finding my style, and every tattered and detailed piece I saw just resounded so much with me, that I began to collect 'Bonzie' pieces whenever I could afford it. I'm sure I drove the designer, Bonzie, slightly batty with my incessant emails on new ideas I had for custom pieces, and ideas I had in general for the label. Now, 'Bonzie' has grown by leaps and bounds, now existing as a duo of niece Bonzie (above right) and aunt Ger (above left). Their distinctive style and bridal appeal has garnered them virtually pages and pages of media attention, both in print and online. And, for myself, all those emails and their success inspired me to become a part of the fashion world in some way, the result of which is what you're reading here. I am quite honoured to finally post an interview here with my dear friend Bonzie. So, grab yourself a cup of tea, and be whisked away to the green world of Bonzieland...
What is the very first piece you remember designing?
This is an easy one!! I used to be in a local dance/majorette group when I was younger and my friends and I used to practice around our area when we were outdoors playing around. I thought we clearly needed some costumes to rock out, so I borrowed/took an old pair of curtains from my mom's and made little cheer uniforms for me and the girls! They were hideous but delightful all at in one go!
Do you and Ger wear your own designs?
We tend to wear our own work when we are going to events such as weddings or fashions shows, etc. Most of our range is special occasion wear, so I wouldn't be inclined to rock it at the local Walmart. But we both love the art of dress up and it's always exciting to be going somewhere that we can indulge in our love of fashion. We recently attended a fundraiser Burlesque event, so we had an absolute ball getting dollied up for that. In fact, I think half of the gals there were rocking our work so that was very handy. :)
What are your most treasured pieces of clothing?
Ger and I often make each other little surprises! I created a one of a kind jacket for Ger for her birthday this year and it's got a lot of intricate detailing on it - it's one of Ger's favourite pieces. Ger is constantly making me accessories for special events. Once she knows what outfit I'm wearing, it's always a given that she will turn up with a wee surprise right before I go. It's a lovely touch and always makes an outfit.
What type of formal fashion training do the two of you have?
I have an honors degree in Fashion Design from The National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Ireland. Internationally renowned Milliner Philip Tracey studied there also! It's an awesome course and really hones the design aspect of fashion. Ger studied fashion in Cork City, Ireland, where she learned the technical aspect of fashion design. We both tend to compliment each other from both sides of the spectrum.
Did you always intend to specialize in bridal wear?
Not necessarily Steff, we adore working in lace, ruffles, intricate detailing. Our work has a very Victorian aesthetic which tends to lend beautifully to romance and all things bridal. It's also a very rewarding market to be working in. We get to meet some really special brides and be a part of their special day. For us, the best part of the job is by far the email we get after the wedding to show us their bridal snaps. This is always such a joy.
What are your greatest inspirations while working? Does living in Ireland affect your work in any way?
Ireland is extremely majestic and romantic in areas. There is still a lot of evidence of the past which really helps to transport your imagination as a designer. Inspiration comes from everywhere though, a song, a movie, a streetscape. I think as a designer your brain acts like a subconscious recorder. Little details register all day long in a bank of ideas, which come spilling out when you're putting pen to paper.
Just over two years ago, I was your ninth sale on Etsy. Today you've sold nearly 1000 items from your shop. Did you ever dream you would receive such a great response?
A single answer Steff, NO! At the time of setting up my store on Etsy, I had settled into an office job in town, totally disheartened with the fashion industry and wondering if I would ever get a break. It was such a tough market to get a job in once I graduated, and after years of trying this and that I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be working a 9-5 office job forevermore.
Then I discovered Etsy! I really just joined up so I could keep up my fashion purely as a hobby and so I wouldn't totally lose everything I had learned in college. I would have been lost without it. I thought that I would maybe sell 2 items a month and this would be awesome. I was totally taken aback by the response on the site and couldn't get over how supportive the online community were of our work. It got so busy in the first few months that Ger and I decided to become a double act and this was the best decision we ever made. It's been going from strength to strength and we are constantly learning and adapting to the market. We both genuinely love what we do and count our blessing every day that we were given a break right when we needed it most. Folks like you, Steff, who have been supporting our work from the start have been the catalyst for moving forward and growing as a label.
What are your thoughts on the huge amount of media attention that 'Bonzie' has gotten within in the last year and a half?
The media attention has been absolutely awesome! It's so vital for us to have a presence online and in the media. We are based in a small town down the South of Ireland where the fashion industry is mostly non-existent. The media have been so supportive of our work and we are so chuffed to be featured in publications around the world. It makes us feel like we are not totally out of the loop and opens up opportunities for designers who are not residing in fashion capitals and industry areas.
How did the gig of your monthly column in Belle Armoire come about?
We were approached by the editor of the magazine, Jenny Doh, to create a regular column in the magazine. It's been a joy writing and creating for the gals of Stampington and Co. They are genuinely some of the nicest gals we have met online and we hope to have them come visit us in Ireland some day too. They have been very supportive of our work and really a genuine pleasure to work with.
What do you do in your free time, if you have any?
Free time is hard to come by, but, as we develop our brand and settle into a routine with our label, we are enjoying a bit more spare time that we used to have in the beginning. I enjoy/have to get to the gym regularly - I have typical Irish curves which need taming on a regular basis! Ger also loves Yoga and working out too. We both love movies and travel, and I spend a lot of time online enjoying research and development.
What is a typical daily running-around outfit for you?
Lately I have stocked up on a few pairs of flat thigh high boots which rock with tunic style dresses. I like to layer these up with tulle petticoats peaking out underneath and an asymmetrical cardigan. Quirky tights are a must too! Ger is also rocking this particular look lately as well. We tend to always be on the same page where style is concerned so we swap and share accessories and shoes, etc.
What is your most favorite 'Bonzie' piece that you have made?
My favorite item to create is the tattered corsets. I think they best sum up what our label is about and best showcase our brand. Sadly, these are more intricate time consuming items which only make an appearance every now and again, while the more regular wraps and boleros take over. I think our most favorite one of these corsets was the cream tattered corset that we created last year (pictured to the right). It remains to this day just a real pleasure to look back on.
Who would you most like to create an outfit for?
I really adore folks with a very eccentric independent approach to self styling. We have created items for both Imogen Heap and Courtney Love, who are both very cool and individual in terms of fashion styling. It would be awesome to create something for a Tim Burton character, that would really be an indulgence and an honor. I would LOVE to create something for my idol Vivienne Westwood, but something tells me she has plenty of outfits in her own wardrobe for that one! I adore Amy from Evanescence, and would so relish an opportunity to dress her for one of her mind-blowing videos.
Any future plans in the works for 'Bonzie'?
Always a lot of plans in Bonzie land Steff, some that will never see the light of day, but it's good to dream and set goals. Here's a wee list of a few items on the cards for 2010:
*A new Etsy shop in collaboration with my brother, who is a Grafitti Artiste. It will be urban style accessories and quite a big change from our Victorian sensibilities.
*We are involved in a new book which will be out in 2010 called "Where Women Create". It's a book about craft and design studios, and we are super excited to be involved in such an awesome project.
*We have been invited to showcase our work at a high end boutique in Limerick City here in Ireland called Tippe Canoe. We will be working towards putting a small capsule collection of the more specialized Bonzie pieces here.
*We are hoping to win a place at a local Artist Collective Studios here in Waterford called Workhouse Studios. An old Irish Mill has been converted into studios and they are adding a fashion department into the mix, so fingers crossed we will be able to apply for a residency there.
*It's always good to expand on our inventory in terms of machinery, etc. and try to grow our brand, so we will be applying to local artistic grant agencies in the New Year to try and help with some funding for improving our brand. It's always tough to compete with commercial brands when we are working as Independents, so it's important to try and attract some funding for expanding our label and growing our little company.
*New collections and new photoshoots for our Bonzie store are always looming, so it will be important to keep on top of this too.
Now that's a fashionable story of the Little Engine That Could. If you're looking for the perfect piece to complete your wedding or special event outfit, or simply a gorgeous piece to feel fabulous in, you really must check out the Bonzie Etsy shop. And to have the first look at all the updates on this ever-growing and unstoppable label, check out the Bonzie blog.