When I was home a couple of weeks ago I spotted the Cork Carousel store on Oliver Plunkett Street and wanted to find out more about the Irish-owned, vintage inspired brand. I thought the concept of the brand was fascinating. As well as being aptly named Carousel, highlighting the inspiration of the brand being vintage inspired.
After venturing into the Dublin store on Exchequer Street for a nose around, I contacted the owner Tom, who generously agreed to conduct an interview with me:
- Could you describe Carousel to me, for people who may not have heard of the brand?
Carousel is an Irish owned and designed lifestyle clothing brand inspired by classic vintage dress shapes altered to suit modern needs. We design and print our own fabrics and create our own patterns.
- What was the idea behind the business? Why did you decide to begin a vintage-inspired store?
I had always been interested in vintage items. I had old cars for years, work on vintage When I lived in the UK, I ran stalls at Camden market, Portobello market and Covent Garden. Once I got the retail bug in the UK, I had hoped to have a shop in Ireland. So it began in London in the early 90’s. It was another 4 or 5 years before I got the opportunity to open my first shop in Dublin. So Carousel first began as Vintage Kings in Georges St. Arcade in Dublin.markets in London selling original vintage clothing so it was a natural progression for me.
- When designing the clothes and prints, how do you decide that something is vintage-inspired?
There are no criteria as such. It is more a judgment which happens automatically. Because I have been involved in vintage for so long, it is almost subconscious knowing what is right or wrong. I have a broad view of where I feel the brand sits to keep its unique selling point but again that is quite instinctive.
- How has the market changed, if at all, since you began selling clothing in London? Have you noticed an increase in people searching for vintage-inspired clothing?
Vintage clothing, both new and original, is a huge industry now all over the world. Every city and town has a vintage store either selling clothing or collectibles. What is considered vintage has obviously changed considerably mostly due to scarcity. When I started, vintage was pre70’s but now it could be 90’s. Vintage is now mainstream.
I think there is a market for feminine, interesting clothing. It does not necessarily have to be completely vintage but certainly vintage inspired mixed with high street styles has a place in most wardrobes.
- You carry your own Circus brand – Why did you decide to design your own brand rather than just carrying other brands? Would you ever plan on finding stockists for Circus in other clothing stores? Why/why not?
Circus came about through necessity. When business became tough in 2010, I needed to find a better business plan to make the business safe. Creating “Circus” turned out to be the saving of, as well as the making of the shop and business. We now have 60+ wholesale customers across Europe, the UK, and USA . We are currently showing the SS18 Circus range at Magic in Las Vegas. We have recently showed the range in Berlin and London.
- Who designs the clothes and where are they made?
I design the clothes and prints with the help of the staff in our shops. I also get help from trained pattern cutters to get the fit right but the ideas and look is from my own experience working in retail around Vintage clothing for most of my life.
- Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
I love imagery from the 40’s and 50’s and the very feminine silhouettes from that time. The colours were always spot on also. I have always admired the way some Scandinavian brands interpret classic shapes and bring them up to date with modern prints.
- Where is the material sourced from?
All our fabrics are sourced from trips to our factory in India. We try as much as possible to use natural fabrics, like cotton poplin and cotton jersey. One of the big challenges is finding new fabrics that we can bring to the range to make it a more complete look. We are currently working on developing our own knitwear.
- Who is your target market? Who is your most popular customer?
I don’t think we have a target market as such. We try and concentrate on the styles and prints we develop helping to give the brand a strong look. I think it should be possible for a wide range of people to be able to wear our styles. Some might like to go for a complete look which might be quite nostalgic but any single style should look modern and current if mixed with your own personal style.
- You have one shop in Dublin and one in Cork. Do you plan to expand further to smaller cities?
We are so excited to have opened in Cork. I am originally from Cork so it has always been a plan of mine to eventually open in my home town. I have no immediate plans to open any more stores but never say never…
- Where do you the shop in five years time?
I would love for Carousel to become a regular stop for anybody heading in to town for a wander around. I would be delighted if Carousel became a part of daily life and we had built up a relationship with lots of liked minded customers.