For Hannah Vail, Derry is central to her business plan.
The local designer believes strongly in developing ties locally, having her workshop based in the beautiful Fashion and Textile Design Centre (FTDC) building on Shipquay Street, and her printer and embroider also based locally.
Hannah has had a concession for her streetwear brand *han in Topshop Victoria Square in Belfast for almost five weeks, and she is delighted with the feedback.
“It’s been going really well so far, and local support has been amazing.
“People all over the place are even going in and talking to me about it. People are genuinely buzzing that it’s going that far.
“The contract is for two months, and it will be reviewed then. I don’t know what will happen at that point. It’s based on sales targets, and that’s been no problem so far. We’ll see, I don’t know how it could go, I’m trying to not get too excited.
“It could end up going to another store as well, and ideally they would keep me on and it would end up going to the Dublin store as well,” said Hannah.
Having officially launched in September 2017, Hannah sells the *han range online across Europe, and she also had a very successful three month stint in the Emporium on Shipquay Street until December last.
The range so far consists of embroidered and printed casualwear, t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.
After graduating from University, Hannah started on the graduate programme at the Fashion and Textile Design Centre in late 2016, which allowed her to have her own workspace in the ‘hub.’
After working in different roles around Derry, Hannah said she just “couldn’t settle” herself, and embarked on a short course in pattern cutting in London, before taking on an unpaid internship with Helen Cody in Dublin.
“I was really interested in high fashion at the time, and the internship was bespoke ladies wear.
“It was a great experience, but it made me realise that type of design just wasn’t for me.
“I’m just not into that fancy stuff with millions of hand sewn beads and feathers. It was great in its own respect, but not my type of thing,” she said.
Hannah found her niche after opening a pop-up shop in the Craft Village, where she did a small run of embroidered t-shirts, which was successful.
“They had done really well and I always wanted to go back to it again.
“At that point I was working in McDonald’s and another place at the same time and I was really miserable. It was then I saw an opening in the Emporium on Shipquay Street and thought why not, I’ve nothing to lose.
“I opened up in there, and left one of my jobs. I only intended to be there around a month and got three months in and couldn’t believe I was still there.
“I left my other job and went full time in Emporium, and then launched the website in November,” she added.
Hannah said that through basing her business at Emporium, she saw that there was strong support in Derry for shopping local, and keeping business local.
“It’s definitely growing, there’s something happening.
“I’ve been talking to a few people in the town, there is something happening in the town, and people are looking to support local more.
“Even in Emporium, customers were telling me they weren’t doing Kris Kringle at Christmas, they were doing small gifts from local businessness instead.
“It’s the nicest thing to hear as well, it’s great to hear that people say they feel passionate about it.
“Since I’ve started the shop I’ve become much more aware about shopping local. Using local people - I have a local printer and embroiderer, and I’d like to eventually bring all production here,” added Hannah.
Reflecting on her experience so far in the FTDC, Hannah said the support has been “amazing.”
“It’s been amazing, and the support from Inner City Trust has also been incredible.
“They couldn’t be more on my side, which is an incredible feeling. There’s only so much that you can do yourself.
“For the Hub, this is only the start.
“It’s been here for a couple of years, but Deirdre Williams is amazing.
“There’s so much that’s going to happen here in the next year, and I’m really excited to be a part of it as well,” she said.
Looking to the future, Hannah said she hopes to expand the brand into the European market, having already had interest from a shop in Spain.
“For the winter I’m looking at possibly making jackets, and bring a bit of production back here to Derry.
“I’m keeping things steady basically, this is it now, I’ve left all my horrible jobs and this is the full time job.
“I’m just so excited about it all the time, I can’t sleep because I’m so excited. I really want it to work,” added Hannah.
Deirdre Williams, Business Development Manager at FTDC has high praise for Hannah and her success to date.
“Hannah did the graduate programme in 2016/2017, she took up residency around July last year, which gave her the workshop in the Fashion Hub.
“It gave her the opportunity to take what she learned from the graduate programme - the commercial, business and financial side of things, and apply her designs to her business.
“She’s got a very strong business model, and she understands her target customer, she’s done her market research, and I think Topshop is the obvious choice for a concession like Hannah’s.
“She has become very business savy, she’s very aware of buying local and making local. She does as much as she can to work with local suppliers in regards her embroidery and prints, so hopefully as she grows, she grows their businesses too.
“The aim of the FTDC is to ultimately bring designers together, and bring them on comercially so they can either become self employed, work freelance and even bring employment to the people of Derry.
“It just goes to show that Hannah can work here, have her business based in Derry, and also supply a major retail company,” said Deirdre.
For more information on FTDC, visit http://www.fashionanddesignhub.com