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06th Oct 2021

“The concept of the hand-me-down is returning”: The Irish designer nailing sustainable kidswear

Melissa Carton

Where do we begin when it comes to sustainable kids’ fashion?

While we may be saving a euro or two by buying cheap kids’ clothes, unfortunately we are often supporting unethical production practices and we’re accepting their poor quality fabrics and rushed designs, not to mention the environmental cost of making fast fashion clothing.

This week we talk to Triona Spellman, founder of luxury children’s clothing brand Darcybow, about her design inspiration, buying sustainable clothing and how we can all do more to support local businesses.

What made you want to start Darcy Bow?

I found it increasingly difficult to find a lovely Christmas dress for my goddaughter each year. In a bland world of cookie clutter childrenswear stores, I dreamed up a business built on sourcing and creating unique authentic and quirky pieces bursting with individuality for little girls and that is where Darcybow came from five years ago.

I was also inspired by my travels to foreign countries as I saw so many beautiful fabrics that I knew I could incorporate into Darcybow’s designs.

Do you think fashion has become too focused on quantity over quality?

Absolutely yes, so many people want “new now” and they buy into trends, and the fast fashion industry has grown so much over the last 20 years. I think we are slowly reverting back to old ways of buying better quality but less.

That message is finally getting through to people and the concept of the hand-me-down is returning.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to create a more sustainable wardrobe for their child?

Buy pieces that have children’s growth in mind, using things like elasticated pieces, roomy clothing, durable fabrics and better made clothing that doesn’t shrink in the wash, as these can be passed on still in perfect condition .

For example our Darcybow Capes can be worn for up to 3 years as they are designed to be draped over the shoulders and a little girl could get a few years out of one of the capes.

With our communion dresses, we design them so they are classic pieces which won’t date so if they are going to a family of more than one girl, the next child can wear them or they can be altered and passed on.

How do you think Ireland rates when it comes to sustainable fashion?

There are huge efforts being made by small brands and a lot of green washing by larger brands which can distort the overall message.

However, I feel we are making progress as a country to encourage things like upcycling, promoting the circular economy in terms of fashion and also companies are starting to sit up and take notice on what fabrics are earth-friendly to use in the clothes.

Is there a piece of clothing from your childhood that you will always love?

I have a great treasured piece that is dear to me- a gorgeous classic navy coat that my Mum bought in Switzer’s which reminds me of Christmas, and family get-togethers and looks as good today as it did then. It just shows how long you can have a quality investment piece that can be passed down and cherished forever.

Have you kept any clothing from your childhood?

My Communion dress is a very special keepsake and I’m so grateful that my Mum kept in safely wrapped in tissue and a big box. It was a happy day for me and it is funny that I now design communion dresses. I guess I have always loved the design and detail that goes into a beautifully crafted dress for a special occasion.

Would you like to see more people buying from small Irish businesses this Christmas/Holiday season?

In light of recent events with the breakdown of the retail supply chain, it is imperative that we support local businesses and produce on our small island. We here at Darcybow employ local seamstresses to stitch our dresses and I feel that’s a good news angle for a small fashion business. Hopefully this Christmas will be all about supporting Irish businesses and boosting local economies.