Deconstructed vintage garments turned display of Irish heritage

Elena Mc Crory talks to Designer and Director Faye Rochford about her authentic Irish brand, FéRí designs

“FéRí is a vibrant and imaginative brand, born out of creativity and nostalgia, designed to bring joy to the wearer.” This is how director and designer Faye Rochford describes her independent label. The FéRí brand is driven by its deconstruction of pre-worn clothes into distinctively Irish garments to showcase Irish heritage. What is most fascinating about Faye’s brand is the social consciousness of its fabrications; FéRí pieces are handmade in a studio in county Wexford alongside a family-run factory in India. The brand’s ethical production and sustainable manufacturing highlights the importance of sustainable fashion.

After receiving her first sewing machine at age 11, Rochford’s childhood formed her subsequent path into fashion. The artist then received her bachelor’s degree in Fashion design at NCAD. “Growing up on a farm, I was surrounded by salvaged and repurposed furniture. My parents were very creative and resourceful, renovating and designing our 200-year-old home. Their eclectic style and creative approach to life influenced me as a child and I knew from a very early age that I wanted to work in a creative field,” Rochford says. She continued to discuss how her love of textiles developed: “I upcycled my own clothes and made fabric hand-bags from a very early age. I did home economics up to my Junior Certificate and hated it. I wasn’t very good at sewing and hated the rules and restrictions put on the projects.”

“Her brand is so ethically mindful, it is energizing to hear its uncompromising nature when it comes to resources.”

When asked about her process when creating garments, she says: “it starts with a feeling or a memory of an experience. My designs are very much inspired by emotion and nostalgia. After my fabric selection, I do rough sketches of the collection. Then I begin painting and I make final colour selections. I try not to be too rigid in my process and embrace the natural way the collection comes together.” Indeed, FéRí’s launch collection is a graceful mix of vibrant floral patterns, with statement cuts and shapes. Rochford uses organic cottona vegan product made from natural seeds with a low environmental impact. Orange fiber, a textile made by extracting the cellulose from the fibers discarded from citrus fruits, saves the by-products that would otherwise be thrown away. Her brand is so ethically mindfulit is energizing to hear its uncompromising nature when it comes to resources. “Natural fibres are biodegradable, unlike polyesters and other petroleum derived or plastic based fabrics which shed particles into the water system, and do not decompose over time, often ending up in landfills. Each print we design is hand-painted in our Wexford studio and digitally printed on these natural fabrics in India. The fabrics we use are silk, organic cotton and orange crepe”, Rochford admits.

“Starting the business alone, you have to be self-motivated all of the time”, she explains. She mentions how important networking and social media is. While she doesn’t enjoy the social media aspect of things, she deems it necessary when kick-starting a brand and claims it is responsible for helping her business to grow in just under one year. “I received a feasibility study grant from my local enterprise office and subsequently did their ‘Start Your Own Business’ course and self-funded my first collection. I am a member of The Council of Irish Fashion designers, The Design and Crafts Council Ireland, The Acorns Programme and Women in Business. All of these groups are a great support network for me”, the artist asserts.

“‘we are really interested in the story of clothes, where they are coming from and where they are going. We use Irish made fabrics where possible, along with locally sourced pre-loved textiles that have a story to tell.’”

What is most striking about the FéRí story is the focus on Ireland and its display of heritage. From wild flowers hidden throughout the countryside to the authentic farm life and the omnipresence of the colour green, Irish culture is being represented in such a beautiful way. “We are really interested in the story of clothes, where they are coming from and where they are going. We use Irish made fabrics where possible, along with locally sourced, pre-loved textiles that have a story to tell. Unlike a new roll of fabric, pre-loved textiles evoke a sense of nostalgia and curiosity of their history, their story. FéRí pieces are an evolution of these stories, capturing the energy of old and new”, Rochford says. “This is something I have been interested in since I was younger, my BA in Fashion Design concluded a final thesis on Re-made Culture in 20th Century Ireland Farming communities.”

One of Rochford’s biggest achievements to date was selling out her first design. With the brand’s commitment to an individualistic approach, she will surely see more products sell out in the future. Rochford claims that “we don’t engage with trends. Our designs are vibrant and colourful, designed mindfully for forward-thinking, individualistic women (#ferifolk) around the globe who want clothes they can love, cherish and pass on.” Like all businesses, her’s came with various challenges, including “funding, a lack of knowledge in running a business, setting up a website, and finding my customer base.”

“Rochford leaves me with a piece of advice fit for any business starter, or student for that matter; ‘Just trust yourself, you are on the right path.’”

“Wear, Care, Mend, Lend” is FéRí’s motto, and it only takes a look through their eclectic pieces to see the homage paid to Irish craft and design. Rochford leaves me with a piece of advice fit for any business starter, or student for that matter: “Just trust yourself, you are on the right path.”