Francie grew up in Dublin and Wicklow, the youngest in a large family of seven children. Her father (a well-known surgeon) and her mother (founder of the Irish Museum’s Trust and former director of the Chester Beatty Library) instilled in her the importance of family, nature, caring for people, observing the beauty in everyday things and an innate sense of style.
Though Francie grew up in Dublin, her fondest memories and the place that probably most shaped her views and outlook was Wicklow, where she spent all of her weekends and holidays with her family. Time in the Wicklow Hills was spent largely outdoors, rambling in the woods and fields, swimming in the rivers and working with her parents in the garden—clearing, stone picking and planting. Meals were gathered from what was growing in the vegetable garden or foraged wild, prepared simply and eaten al fresco in different outdoor areas depending on the time of day and weather. Fish was caught locally and freshly served with salads and home-grown potatoes. Her fondest memories were of great parties of her parents’ friends who would come for lunch and end up staying for the weekends, getting involved in building walls, making sloe gin or just staying for the conversation, rest and relaxation. Life was simple in Wicklow, living by the weather, indoors only when it was too wet to be outside—with books and more books, handed down from sibling to sibling, sitting by big roaring fires, disappearing into cosy corners and staying up past bedtimes, ears strained to hear the grown-up chat.
After graduation from University, Francie entered the world of fashion and TV broadcasting, presenting an Irish TV series on Irish fashion. She moved to London and spent five years working in the graphic design, advertising and marketing sectors.
Sonia grew up in a small town in Northern Ireland, the eldest of four children and surrounded by a close-knit family community. Sonia’s appetite for travel and adventure grew from an early age, and the travel bug continued after high school when she was scouted as a model. She had always dreamed of taking a year out—before going on to study fashion in University, and modelling presented the ideal opportunity to work and travel all over the world—including Ireland, New York and Japan.
Sonia became renowned for her red hair and freckled complexion and so with this trademark, she became a well-known face both at home in Ireland and abroad. She worked across both fields of fashion and advertising, collaborating with some of fashion’s most iconic designers and gained invaluable experience and insight into the fashion world, which enabled her to create an important and influential little black book of who’s who. In more recent years, Sonia was appointed Fashion Curator for the crafts council of Ireland, where she has nurtured and mentored young Irish designers and brands.
We met in our early 20’s when we were cast to model together for the well-known Irish fashion photographer, Mike Bunn. Mike was an early and constant champion for Irish design and textiles and photographed us in the landscapes around the island, establishing a strong Irish look and encapsulating a beautiful visual Irish style. It was at this time, we realized we shared a deep pride in our Irishness and a love of Irish tweeds and textiles. We became great friends from the outset.
For a decade, however, we went our separate ways, with Sonia modelling on the international circuit and Francie building her career in London. During that time, we married our long-term boyfriends, settled back in Dublin and had three children each. It was after then that we joined forces and worked together with Irish businesses in the fashion, lifestyle and craft industries handling marketing, event management and media relations. We travelled the country together meeting with clients, and soon, conversations led to our developing a new Irish brand—one that would present Irish textiles and an Irish lifestyle in a fresh and relevant-for-today way to international customers, as well as to those at home. We believed there were extraordinary skills and heritage in Ireland, in manufacturing and weaving textiles—both linen and wool.
Our style at STABLE is deeply embedded in a new rich and varied Irish look that is not insular but well travelled, seasoned, luxurious, respectful of our landscape, and respectful of the wonderful hands that weave and produce. It embodies what we always knew was “Irish” but presents it in a way that is fresh, seen with new eyes and welcomed as being what people have been searching for.
At STABLE, it is all about the textures and the layers where we allow for the fabrics to be the heroes themselves. We layer the different textures and colours throughout our shop space to encourage people to touch and feel and see the variety, quality and craftsmanship of the weaving work put into each item. We work with tweed, cashmere, linen, alpaca, wool and silk, from the very best of Irish textile producers—to create and weave beautiful fabrics with which we design and make our now much-coveted Irish linen and wool scarves, throw and blankets, as well as, textile accessories for STABLE Table, STABLE Bath and STABLE Bed.
Creating a space where people can see a unique and memorable collection of the very best of Irish textures is an important element at STABLE. We want people to come in and be wowed by the quality and breadth of colour and style we offer. We spend a lot of time each week tweaking the displays, rearranging the layout and placing fresh leaves and flowers. The opening of STABLE has been our biggest accomplishment, combined with this year’s nominations for creative Irish businesswomen awards.
Creating a self-financed luxury brand has been a huge challenge, though maintaining the quality, along with a strong level of detail, is always our top priority across our products and in our store, and IN HOW WE communicate with our customers.
So many facets of our lives provide us with daily inspiration, generally stemming from our experiences, which manifest from when we are on the road. We love nothing more than getting on the road to visit our suppliers, weavers and knitters, both in Northern and Southern Ireland. It’s on these trips that the ideas flow, the conversations happen and the wish lists become realities. Driving through the Irish countryside, along the coasts, over the mountains is nothing short of extraordinary—the light, the weather, the colours, the textures, the life. We enjoy meeting so many interesting people and introducing them to Irish textiles of quality and style that places Ireland on the world stage where we belong. For us, it is all about celebrating our Irishness and the best of what Irish weavers have to offer.
Time is precious and creating beautiful textiles takes time. We must make every effort to preserve the skills and knowledge of weaving and craft—it is what we believe to be a real luxury. STABLE is styled to take the very best of Irish textiles and craftsmanship and present them in a fresh and unique way, so that all of Ireland and its people can be proud to own, gift and share Irish luxury.
Sonia | Being creative has been a part of everything we have ever done. I have been fortunate to be responsible for creating some of the most memorable events in Irish fashion. For me, the joy is in putting people together, both at home in Ireland and abroad—and from my experience in producing events and shoots, as well as, leading fashion shows, which organically launched the careers of many Irish fashion designers through the creation of Dublin Fashion Week.
Francie | Some of my first memories of being creative were as a very young child when I would relish creating bouquets of flowers for my parents. I would get up earlier to have enough time to pick flowers and leaves and then arrange them. I would slip into my parent’s room while they slept to place the bouquet on the table for when they woke. I held similar excitement in helping to set the table for dinner parties—choosing the silver, unfolding the linens and the tableware. I was fortunate to put my love for creativity to work when I worked in London, where I became involved in both graphic and space design for some of the largest brands in retail. It was during this time when I developed my experience in the power of visual identity to communicate a brand’s values, both in print and in space.
GETTING THE BEST OUT OF A BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP
The first and foremost necessity of a successful business partnership is a shared vision or dream. It’s what keeps us focused on the day-to-day and on the big picture. Sonia and I are completely in agreement with what we want to do and where we hope the business will be in five years time. Inevitably, we are constantly being challenged about the direction of the business, the design styles and more strategic issues like staff and finance; however, the great reality is we are clear about our plan and committed to the journey. We also share an eye and an edit that is really similar, and this makes for quick and easy decisions on everything from design styles for the ranges we sell in store to the layout of brochures, window displays and styling for shoots. We are lucky to have known each other for a very long time, and there is huge trust and respect for each other’s point of view and decisions too. Communication is everything, and we never stop talking! Our road trips and time spent travelling to suppliers north and south of Ireland are brainstorming sessions and problem-solving discussions, and we regularly come back with answers and inspiration. A sense of humour for a good business partnership is also vital. You absolutely have to be able to have a laugh in the middle of all the stress and pressure of running a busy shop and starting a new business!
COLLABORATE FOR SUCCESS & GROWTH
At STABLE, we love to collaborate and indeed, with all the work that we do with our suppliers, knitters, weavers and spinners, we regularly approach all with collaboration in mind. It makes for a great working relationship to develop ideas together and push creative boundaries. We have great respect for the time and talent our suppliers have in terms of what they do. To produce the highest quality textiles that we source takes years and years of experience and expertise, and our weavers know best. What is so rewarding though is to push the boundaries—often the results are a pleasant surprise for us all! For the best collaborations, we seek out like-minded people to come on the journey with us who also like what we are endeavouring to do with Irish textiles. It is helping us all to create and share the wonderful quality of Irish linen and hand-woven wool scarves, throws and accessories and to encourage people to see Irish textiles in a new and relevant way to suit modern sensibilities and lifestyles. When people touch and feel our stock in our store and hear the journeys the textiles have been on to reach our shelves, they understand what we are about. Our customers become our collaborators too, and they, in turn, share the STABLE story. It’s all about collaboration!
1 | Choosing the colours
2 | weaving the fabric
3 | inspecting the fabric