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

Irish Examiner - Magazine - - Contents -

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 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.

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