Glove queen Rowan gets hands on New York deal

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

fea­ture reg­u­larly in Vogue mag­a­zine.

It wasn’t al­ways that glam­orous, though, at her West­bury Mall base in Dublin where she also sells belts and bags.

“I launched the day that Lehman Broth­ers col­lapsed and when I went home that evening I re­mem­ber see­ing all the em­ploy­ees leav­ing with their be­long­ings in boxes and thought ‘ What have I done’,” she told the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent. “I made no sales that day.

“My Christ­mas turnover plum­meted but it gave me more time to work on my de­sign and brand. I had al­ways thought gloves were an un­der­stated ac­ces­sory and I al­ways loved de­sign.”

She was also lucky to have a re­al­is­tic land­lord but there were many sac­ri­fices along the road.

“I had no hol­i­days for seven years, no new clothes, cars. I knew long-term if I stuck to my guns I would achieve my aim of be­ing the best glove de­signer around. Gen­er­ally I’d be very fo­cused and I cut over­heads as I was de­ter­mined to keep the shop open — it’s part of be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur.”

Things re­ally be­gan to pick up in 2011 and while she ad­mit­ted that open­ing up a pop-up shop in Lon­don that year was costly, it was a coup from a mar­ket­ing per­spec­tive. “That year my gloves ended up on the cover of Grazia mag­a­zine, then He­len Mir­ren was wear­ing them.”

Later on, dur­ing a high-pro­file trip to Lon­don, Sabina Hig­gins, the wife of Ir­ish Pres­i­dent Michael D Hig­gins, sported a pair. Other fans in­clude Madonna and Martin Scors­ese. There are now 50 de­signs in 25 dif­fer­ent colours and her prod­ucts are stocked in high-end stores in Mi­lan, Lon­don, Rot­ter­dam, Oslo and now New York.

Prices start at €65, at the top end you are look­ing at €2,800 for a more high-end glove that might in­clude feath­ers or Mon­go­lian fur.

She is look­ing at the Asian mar­ket and hopes to launch a bag col­lec­tion next year.

The com­pany is prof­itable and Rowan ex­pects turnover to be up 25pc next year fol­low­ing an in­crease of 20pc in 2018. Things are a lot rosier than in 2008 and her fo­cus re­mains on qual­ity.

While a lot of leather pro­duc­tion has gone to China, she has five leather sup­pli­ers in Italy that she shares with brands such as Prada and Gucci and she trav­els there reg­u­larly to en­sure qual­ity con­trol — each glove is made by hand and takes three months from stretch­ing to stitch­ing.

She also in­sists that all leathers and furs are eth­i­cally sourced.

Paula Rowan says she knew if she stuck to her guns she could achieve her aim of be­ing ‘the best glove de­signer around’. Pic­ture by Steve Humphreys

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