We recently caught up with Sinead Clarke, the designer behind the colourful knitwear label, EssenC.

The label produces a range of knitwear hats, scarves, jackets, coats and other accessories here in Ireland.

Sinead was born and raised in Co Cavan and graduated with an Honours degree in Fashion Design from the Limerick School of Art and Design in 2006. Her degree collection entitled "An Sorcas Taisteal" was selected from over 15,000 entries in an international student design competition and awarded Most Innovative Knitwear Collection in the grand final in Gorizia, Italy in September 2006. As a result she was offered an internship with Missoni - Europe's largest knitwear design company.

In April 2007, she headed to Italy to work with Missoni where she designed fabrics using various yarns and delicate textures for the company. Today, Sinead is one of Ireland’s most successful young knitwear designers, creating her unique pieces from scratch in her design studio - a renovated 19th century farmhouse in Co Cavan.
Georgina Heffernan caught up with the designer to get the lowdown on her career.

Georgina Heffernan: Did you always want to work as a knitwear designer?
Sinead Clark: I always wanted to work with my hands and "make things". My number one gift to ask from Santa was a "Get-Set", a creative box containing bits and pieces to make whatever was on the cover. I remember loving them.

In Art College I discovered knitwear as part of my fashion course. From the very first day I got great satisfaction from designing and creating my very own unique fabrics on the knitting machine and then turning these into garments.

What's the inspiration behind your creations?

I really love colour and textures so I find that I get inspiration from the yarns themselves, my raw materials. Some yarns are so beautiful and delicate while others are bursting with colour so I find that I design around these. I enjoy simple, clean silhouettes with a texture or fairisle pattern I have designed and created myself.

Who is your favourite designer and why?

I have a few. I love Missoni for their fantastic use of colour, shape and their use of movement within the patterns on the fabrics. I was very lucky to have worked with them in the past in Milan as a fabric designer. This was a great experience and urged me to set up my own label. I also love Valentino and Sonia Rykiel.

Was it tough getting started in business?
No, not at all. I was quite young and I was very excited about it all. I had great help and support from LEADER and The Enterprise Board when it came to buying machinery and setting up a workshop. I had great interest in my product range from the very start which was extremely encouraging and each sale funded the next design. I travelled to trade shows in London and Paris and the feedback was amazing so this assisted with the export side of my business.

What has been your greatest achievement in your career to date?

Wining a fashion competition after completing my Degree kick-started my career. I won an award for the "Most Innovative Knitwear Collection" in Gorizia, Italy as part of the MittelModa Awards with my first ever knitwear collection. This gave my incredible confidence in my work and gave me the courage to pursue the career I always wanted. Since setting up in business, I feel a great sense of achievement each time a new shop or boutique wishes to shock my designs. If feels amazing to me that another person or company can earn their living and run their own business by selling my product ranges. It makes me feel very proud.

Have you had to streamline your business as a result of the recession? How has it impacted you and your peers in the fashion industry?

I started my label at the very start of this recession so I am none the wiser to be honest. Yes, things are very hard in Ireland. My business relies on the general public to purchase items from me or via the boutiques I stock so this is a constant pressure. I am very lucky that I have a product that is easily exported and loved by those outside of Ireland; this is a direction I am now perusing more and more.
The recession has cut out a lot of impulse buying in the lower market but I honestly feel that customers are now buying better - choosing good quality garments that will last, individually designed pieces that are unique so a customer will keep in their wardrobe for a lifetime. My designs are timeless, not following any particular trend other than the trend of the label itself so you will own it for years, and love it for years.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

I enjoy the freedom of being able to work when I want to. Design is very free so it is hard to sit as a desk and design on demand. When a new idea comes into my mind, I can create and develop it in my own time and possible archive it for the future. I also enjoy meeting new people through my work who have the same desires and passions about knitwear and design, some become customers, some become friends. I love this.

Where do you see the brand going in the future?

I would love the brand to become more International. I currently stock Ireland, UK, Italy, Holland, Germany, USA, Canada which is a great achievement and I am very proud, but I would love the EssenC brand to grow even more and be recognised. I am really interested in soft furnishing and interiors so perhaps EssenC may develop a new range in the future.

What’s your motto?

EssenC's motto is "Real Wool I Real Warm". My motto is "Follow your heart and your dreams".

W : www.essenc.ie