Style queen Esther McCarthy meets Pippa O’Connor
When Pippa O’Connor Ormond began her beauty and fashion blog it was just a hobby, she tells Esther McCarthy. It would be the beginning of a business empire
She’s become one of our most successful social media and fashion trendsetters but Pippa O’ConnorOrmond’s business success, she readily volunteers, was born out of necessity.
While pregnant with her first boy, Ollie, at the tail end of a long and difficult recession, she reflected on her next step — and happened upon the first shoots of an idea that would transform her career.
In those early days, she says now, setting up a fashion and beauty blog was more a way of staying occupied than a business start-up, but she quickly realised it could be a game-changer.
“I wasn’t even on maternity leave, because I wasn’t really working. Nothing was really happening,” she says.
“It was four years ago, things still weren’t great in the industry, people weren’t seen to use models, we were still not in great times. And I was pregnant, work was obviously limited for me because I would only be used for pregnancy stuff.
“So it was kind of more of a case of going: ‘God, what am I going to do now? Things aren’t really happening for me here’. So it kind of literally started out as a hobby, out of a little bit of boredom.” She was unaware then that her hobby could be the basis of an empire that has seen her become one of our most influential bloggers and set up her own designer denims business.
“It definitely was just more so something to keep me occupied. But very quickly I realised that it could be a business.” She still sounds a little surprised at how much her idea caught fire.
“It’s mad. The reach, every day, on
pippa.ie is probably like 45 to 50 thousand hits a day – to put it into simple terms, that many individual people would log on a day. I’m so fortunate because I have such a huge following on social media, and things are instant. If I go on Snapchat I’ve 100,000 looking at my Snapchat, so everything is just instant.
“So if I say Fashion Factory tickets are going on sale, or a new style of jeans is up online… I don’t take that for granted, that I have hundreds of thousands of people at my fingertips every single day.” She says she still sometimes feels overwhelmed when the figure is quantified, as her husband, TV presenter Brian Ormond, recently did at a gig. “It’s amazing, and sometimes it’s scary, like when we were watching Adele in Wembley. She had 100,000 people there, the biggest concert they ever had at Wembley, and Brian said: ‘That’s the amount of people you have looking at your Snapchat every day’. It’s only when you see that amount of people altogether that you go: ‘Oh my God!’”
She may be modest at her success, but it’s clear that Pippa has a savvy business brain. Her beloved mum, Louise Mullen, who died just weeks before she began her first Fashion Factory tour, bringing fashion and beauty expertise to people around the country, passed on her acumen and work ethic to her daughter. “Yes absolutely, she was such a hard worker herself, especially when we were young. She was a cook and ran lots of restaurants. She was busy.” That first tour, she thought, might run for six months or so, but they’re still in demand three years later. “They are just getting more popular, which is crazy, because I kind of thought: ‘Surely everyone who wanted to to has been by now.’ I think people are very surprised. I think they think they’re coming to a nice kind of fluffy day out, which it is, but they’re surprised there’s so much useful information. It’s good, because it’s appealing to a fashionista, as I call them, but also to the granny, coming in with her daughter. It’s all generations.”
The term ‘influencer’ became a buzzword for online dialogue in recent years, but there has been a backlash in the past year, with many now regarding the term obsolete.
P ippa is not fond of the term, although she concedes it’s what some would use to describe what she does. “I would never refer to myself as one, although people would call me one. I think it’s a word that will be gone this time next year. I wouldn’t be a fan of the term. It’s so saturated at the moment, the market, when it comes to bloggers, influencers, YouTubers, everything. It’s great, I think, to see people trying something and doing something for themselves, I’m all for people doing that. I think when it doesn’t work is when people try to imitate something that someone else has done, that’s been successful. Usually that doesn’t work then for that person. You have to pick out what you are unique at. Once you do something that you think is popular, but you’re not into it, that’s when it won’t work. You just know, when you read an article or a post in Instagram, you can see passion in something. And you can see when there’s not, I think.”
Success has brought demands, and she values her down time, most of which is spent with Brian and their young sons Louis and Ollie.
“I have two small boys, so my rule is that I’m always home at 4pm every day. I try hard to have the evening with them. They go to bed at 7pm. I’m kind of strict with that as well, because if they don’t go to bed at 7pm, then my evening with my husband is gone. I have the evening with the boys, and we’re so lucky, we live on a golf course and we have nice facilities around us. Especially during the summertime, we’re outside all the time. We’re playing golf with Ollie, or going for a swim, or going for a walk.” Given how much of her business, including her denims label Poco, is driven online, she is conscious of engaging with her audience but also of switching off the gadgets.
“I like to be interactive with people so I always have my Snapchat open so people can contact me. With Snapchat and Instagram and email I literally could have hundreds of things a day coming in. So I try to limit it to when I’d open them or when I’d reply. Otherwise you’d be at it from seven in the morning till when you go to bed, and it could take over.”
JEAN GENIE Pippa wanted her jeans to do exactly what they promised on the label. Her big sellers include The Slimmer and The Off Duty (pictured, €90), the “go-to comfy jean”.
Pippa and husband Brian Ormond at the pop-up launch in Cork.