Scarf-designer Susannagh Grogan sells printed silk scarves through retail outlets such as Brown Thomas and Anthrolopologie in Ireland, the UK, the US, the Netherlands and Germany. Exports make up around 70% of the business. She also sells her scarves online.
Susannah began designing her own range of silk scarves in 2009 after having worked as a textile designer for companies including Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s. With digital printing opening up the textile industry and the popularity of scarves on the rise, she spotted an opportunity to set up her own label.
Susannagh initially produced a small collection of printed silk scarves before expanding to design seasonal collections that mirror the fashion calendar. She has recently extended her product range to include printed leather.
Fairs are the main method by which Susannagh has built up her domestic and international business. Her first collection was sold at craft fairs such as the Dalkey winter fair and after a good reception she decided to exhibit at the National Crafts & Design Fair. Susannagh also sold her scarves directly to boutiques by driving around and showing them her collection.
At the same time she began exhibiting at fairs in England, some of which were successful and others which were not. Despite valuing retail fairs because of the opportunity to meet customers and see their reactions to her designs, she has chosen to concentrate on the wholesale side of her business so she can print to order and not carry stock.
In 2011 Susannagh exhibited at Showcase (Ireland’s largest international creative trade fair) for the first time and won both the New Product and Creative Island awards. Repeated appearances have allowed her to build up good relationships with buyers in Ireland and abroad.
Through the Pure trade fair in London she met buyers from Fortnum & Mason, which led to a popup shop. In 2013, Susannagh was asked to design an own-label scarf for Anthropologie. She is now at the stage where she is looking to take on some help.
Trade fairs are also a good way to meet potential suppliers, and get information about the market as well as the sales aspect, which can broaden the options available. It’s also good way to get feedback on other trade fairs. It can take a few goes at a trade fair to get known.
Do your research. Look at the competition. Visit trade fairs before exhibiting at them to decide if you like the look of them. Try smaller fairs, sell to the public and see their reaction.
Dealing with overseas buyers is different from Ireland because there’s far more competition and you don’t have the same brand recognition. You need to be organised and make the most of your time at overseas trade fairs because it’s more difficult to chase up once you’re no longer there.
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