Vivien Walsh designs contemporary jewellery. She has a small retail shop in Monkstown, Co Dublin as well as a growing e-commerce store. She also sells wholesale to a small number of retailers.
Vivien began designing jewellery in the 1980s after returning to Ireland from London where had been working in fashion retail. Her first outlet was in the newly-established Design Centre in Dublin where she worked with other makers such as Louise Kennedy.
Buyers picked up on her jewellery and very quickly her wholesale business grew, helped by her own knowledge of the fashion retail industry. She also opened a small shop from which she sold directly and exhibited at London Fashion Week for ten years. However, Vivien got to the point where her business grew too big for her and she realised she had lost the creative part. She was no longer a designer-maker but instead a manager, which didn’t suit her.
Vivien sold her shop and took an 18-month sabbatical to focus on what she wanted to achieve. In 2011, with Ireland deep in recession, she decided to open a small retail shop in Monkstown where she could retain full control of her business.
The space is divided into a showroom and a studio where customers can see the jewellery being made. Vivien has deliberately designed the space to be very simple with just two glass cabinets so that people can touch her jewellery. Over the last year, Vivien has set up an e-commerce site. She says this is a growing area as customers are becoming more and more willing to buy online.
In addition to her retail business Vivien currently sells wholesale to a selection of buyers. She has started to focus on developing this side of her work, signing a dozen new buyers at Showcase (Ireland’s largest international creative trade fair) in 2014. Because of the limited size of the Irish market, she is now looking at doing trade shows with a view to entering the UK market again by 2015.
There has to be something in it for the retailer and it helps to understand what they need and know the margins in the industry. If you’re not giving them at least that, why would they take a chance on you and give you shelf space?
Make the best product you can. It is important to stay fresh and offer new things as customers don’t want to see stagnation. Understand who your customer is and what their needs are.
Trade fairs are a good way of getting in front of buyers as they give you a chance to present your craft in the way you’d like them to see it. If you have no track record it helps with getting buyers to see and touch your products.