Cut­ting a dash on the farm

A new range of func­tional but stylish work­wear for women farm­ers will be launched by Grace Roche at next month’s Plough­ing, re­ports Claire Fox

Irish Independent - Farming - - FINANCE FARMING -

THE only daugh­ter of a suck­ler farmer — and with three broth­ers, Grace Roche was bound to be a tomboy. How­ever, five years ago Grace, from Kyle­more Abbey near Loughrea, found her­self fran­ti­cally look­ing around the Plough­ing match for fem­i­nine farm wear and was in shock to find that there was lit­tle on of­fer.

“My­self and my hus­band, Ray­mond were on the way to the Plough­ing. He said he was look­ing to buy some over­alls and wellies and I said to my­self that I could do with some over­alls and wellies, and had a vi­sion in my head of buy­ing a pur­ple pair of over­alls. I looked around though and there was noth­ing,” re­calls the 31­year­old.

The last few years, the idea of set­ting up a fe­male cloth­ing brand for farm and out­door wear played around Grace’s mind. She would travel to the Plough­ing Match year af­ter year and while printed wellies soon came on the mar­ket, there were few fash­ion­able and func­tional pairs to be found. “If you’re liv­ing in wellies you need a de­cent pair,” she says.

“I just al­ways found my­self wear­ing smaller over­alls that were meant for men but I wanted to look like a girl, so that’s why, on my 30th birth­day last year, I gave my­self a present and set aside money to get sam­ples of fe­male over­alls made,” she adds.

This was the birth of Grace’s new out­door cloth­ing brand, Pretty Bird. The brand in­cludes denim and flo­ral dun­ga­rees which Grace buys in from Europe , wellies from Nor­way, printed T­shirts and over­alls, which Grace — along with a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in Cork — have de­signed them­selves.

Grace man­ages run­ning Pretty Bird while help­ing out on her in­law’s dairy farm in Kyle­more Abbey and work­ing as head of Euro­pean projects for mar­ket­ing com­pany Mo­men­tum, which is based in Co Leitrim. She said com­ing up with the name Pretty Bird was a com­bined ef­fort of her­self and her hus­band Ray­mond, who she mar­ried last year.

“I’d played around with names like Farm Girl and Funky Farmerette, but I didn’t want it to just be lim­ited to farm­ing. I wanted it to in­cor­po­rate all out­door wear like DIY and gar­den­ing. Ray­mond said I should call it Fine Bird but I liked Pretty Bird as I felt it soft­ened it a bit and was generic but still gave the nod to na­ture and the out­doors,” she ex­plains.

As head of Euro­pean projects in her own job, Grace is aware that with Brexit, it’s a risky time to start a busi­ness but doesn’t feel it will af­fect Pretty Bird.

“My prod­ucts are com­ing in from all around Europe and my main con­cern is that I get the prod­ucts out there and the busi­ness up and run­ning. I don’t have any sup­pli­ers in the UK at the mo­ment.”

As a mem­ber of the West Women in Farm­ing group, Grace has met plenty of fe­male farm­ers who are ex­cited to get their hands on clothes made specif­i­cally for them.

“There’s noth­ing else in Ire­land like Pretty Bird. If you Google search work­wear for women, you get pic­tures of women in of­fice wear. I’ve a good fol­low­ing al­ready with­out hav­ing had to shout too loudly about it. I met women at the Tul­lam­ore Show who were very in­ter­ested in it and in my own West Women in Farm­ing group, so there is a de­sire there.”

Grace will be bring­ing her busi­ness the full cir­cle when she launches it at the Na­tional Plough­ing Match next month. The Pretty Bird stall won’t be your run of the mill tent seen at the event ev­ery year, in­stead Grace chose a very spe­cial ve­hi­cle to show­case her prod­ucts.

“I wanted to sell the clothes in a way that would stand out so I bought an old prison truck from North­ern Ire­land which I’ve called Jail­bird to house the clothes. So I’m con­vert­ing the truck at the mo­ment and it will have a chang­ing room and a counter,” she adds.

Grace hopes that the prod­ucts will help em­power women in farm­ing, who she be­lieves are “the back­bone” of ru­ral Ire­land.

“I hope it res­onates with the strong Ir­ish women in­volved in the farm­ing sec­tor. They are the back­bone of farm­ing and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. These women work hard along­side their hus­bands, boyfriends, broth­ers and fa­thers and do all the tough jobs they do. I’m very pleased to be in a po­si­tion with this new busi­ness to put a spot­light on them and ad­dress their work­wear needs.”

Pretty Bird will be lo­cated at Block 4, Row 39, Stand 769 at the Na­tional Plough­ing Cham­pi­onships in Septem­ber

Grace Roche mod­el­ling some of her new range at Kyle­more Abbey, Co Gal­way.

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