Everyone knows the thrill of discovering a new shop, but it's rare that you step into one so well considered and thoughtfully decorated that it feels a bit like revisiting something you've seen in a dream. Bonzie’s new boutique in Waterford is just such a place: since it opened just a few weeks ago, it has become a refuge for brides-to-be, stylists and fashion editors alike. Georgina Heffernan caught up with the award winning designer to find out a little more…

GH: You have just opened your own boutique. Is that something that you wanted to do for a long time?
It’s all I’ve thought about since I was a little girl. Most women know what wedding dress they are going to wear or how many children they would like to have but, as a young child, I knew I wanted my own space to design and display my creations. Ger, my business partner is much the same. We both had a vision for the business and worked hard to create opportunities and overcome challenges to get to this point.

Does the prospect of setting up a new business in a recession make you nervous?
Absolutely, 100%. We would be naïve to think otherwise. However, we have had to deal with those cards as they came along. Timing is what it is and our careers just happened to take off before the recession hit. We felt that it was important to nurture the business and meet challenges head on rather than packing it in, especially since we had come so far and achieved so much, in such a short space of time.

How have you overcome your doubts in this respect?
We are both very positive people and opportunistic when it comes to business. I like to go out and find a solution rather than waiting for the storm to pass. Sometimes the best things that have happened to our business are things that arose out of a challenge or an adversity. It’s good to be forced out of your comfort zone, as complacency is one of the worst attributes to have as an entrepreneur.

What part of your job is the most rewarding?
Making a client feel special or confident in what they are wearing. I love to see a woman smiling with excitement at the thoughts of wearing one of our pieces to a wedding or event. You can tell instantly by a customer’s body language, when they are standing in front of the mirror, if they are feeling fabulous in an item. This has to be one of the MOST rewarding aspects.

We also get a lot of emails from other crafters/young designers who have followed our journey from the garden shed to our current venue and all of them describe how inspired they are by our little artisan brand. It’s very rewarding to know that we are a small part in other people’s lives and inspire others to believe in themselves and take a leap of faith.

How long have you been designing and what's different about what you do?
Ger and I have been designing for a combination of 35 years. I think the difference with our brand is our theatrical approach to design. Whilst it’s important to remain somewhat commercial we don’t allow this to override our love of designs and pushing boundaries. I don’t feel we are a design house per say- more a quirky artisan label. We don’t try to be anything other than what we are, which is a little eccentric, a little off the beaten track and probably a little bit unusual.

There's a certain old world/vintage quality to your designs - how did that come about?
We are both big fans of the Victorian Era, the theatre and romantic nostalgia. We have always designed in this particular way. We don’t follow modern trends and stick to what we do in terms of that Old World Vintage Inspired Look. Pieces are embellished to have an antiquated appearance and a soft fairy-tale finish. It’s the root of our brand. Not to everyone’s taste but we certainly have a great following who enjoy that particular way of adornment and that’s ok with us.

What celebrities inspire your style?
I’m a big fan of any celebrity that tends to dress with individuality. We are both instantly drawn to kooky characters and eccentric dressers. Helena Bonham Carter and Daphne Guinness along with Vivienne Westwood and Imogen Heap would be examples of this for us.

Have you any celebrity fans?
Courtney Love is a client of ours and has to date purchased two pieces from us, on separate occasions. We have some very interesting emails from Courtney which we treasure. She’s a fashion enthusiast and likes to cause a reaction with her appearance. I would go so far to say that she’s an eccentric dresser, which, of course, is what we enjoy. Imogen Heap and Gabby Young are also counted in our celeb clientele. We would dearly love to dress Florence or Helena Bonham Carter at some point!

What's been the highlight of your career to date?
There are so many pivotal moments along the way. Some are just poignant things like a young girl beaming in her Bonzie communion dress and others are more monetary, such as being featured on Xpose, Nationwide and TV3. We have won a variety of awards along the way - from design to craftsmanship to entrepreneurial accolades - and these give us confidence in our work and the direction we are moving in. We were featured on the front page of Etsy.com in the US in 2010 and it was one of the most exciting weeks for us, as it gave our little cottage industry a global spotlight for a full week.

What’s your motto- in business and in life?
Live your truth in life. Be positive, appreciate your customers, enjoy your work and remain passionate for what you do. The simple things that really matter long-term.


Bonzie Designs
Spring Garden Alley
Waterford City
Ph: 086 1230696