Georgina Heffernan speaks with Fran and Laura Nolan of the successful Irish fashion label Fran & Jane.
Georgina Heffernan: What was the idea behind the label Fran & Jane?
Laura Nolan: Fran & Jane represents stylish, elegant and feminine fashion. Our objective when designing the label is for women to feel good, while looking glamorous and being comfortable. Fran & Jane is ageless; we work off the mother-daughter ethos that allows all ages to wear our collections. We believe in quality fabrics, attention to detail, figure-flattering designs and individuality are all key aspects of the brand.
What, do you believe, is the secret behind your success?
Fran Nolan: I believe that hard work, experience and a willingness to adapt are important factors. We have a strong team and we are focused on delivering quality and customer service; we are devoted in producing the best product and a superior shopping experience in a Fran & Jane boutique or concession.
As you work as a mother/daughter team, do you find it a challenge to separate family and work time? How do you balance your professional and creative duties with normal day to day life?
Laura: It was a hard balance to strike when I entered the business 6 years ago but we got there eventually. I have huge admiration and respect for mum and I continue to learn from her every day. We are both strong characters, with strong opinions but we have a great sense of humour so by and large disagreements are rare. Out of the office we try to keep work discussions limited, but that is easier said than done. We are best friends and I count myself incredibly lucky to have her as a mum, a mentor and a business partner.
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?
Fran: It has been and still is a difficult period, everyone has been affected and our industry is one of the worst hit areas; making quality and customer service more important than ever. It is not a nice environment to work in; we have had to make cut backs in the business. We keep the stress and worry at bay with a positive attitude. As we work nearly a year in advance, we are constantly focused on the future and continue to be optimistic – you have to be!
You recently expanded into the UK, with a new store on the Kings Road; tell me a little about that venture?
Laura: Our UK expansion has been a huge success for the brand. We now have UK agents and our wholesale is increasing year on year. Our Kings Road boutique had a short lease and is now closed but we are looking for another suitable premise in London to relocate.
What has been your greatest achievement in your career to date?
Laura: I was thrilled with the opportunity to trade in Brown Thomas. I think it is Dublin’s most exclusive store and we very proud to be sitting beside such prestigious brands.
Describe your own personal style?
Fran: I’m a dress girl; I think they are easy and smart. I like feminine silhouettes and clothes that fit well. I also love good knitwear; we have a great range this season that I adore.
Laura: I only really wear black or cream – sounds strange as Fran & Jane is so full of colour but maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by colour every day. I love big bags, big watches and Ash high tops. I wear Fran & Jane every day but mainly the separates; the blouses, trousers and jackets.
What are your favourite pieces from your autumn/winter collection and what was the inspiration behind it?
Fran: Different themes inspired us for this season, including Mad Men and the revival of the 60’s with the mod inspired dresses and coats. We also took inspiration from other designers; we love Roland Mouret, Victoria Beckham, Givenchy, Lanvin and Carven to name a few. My favourite style is our “Elle” range; long-sleeved dresses in jersey houndstooth fabric with leather detail, they are comfortable but sexy.
Laura: My must-have is our blue and black printed jersey suit – very fashionable! I also love our black wool cape with leather piping; very easy to dress up or down, our design is a bit longer making it very smart looking.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Laura: I adore the diversity of my job, every day is different. I also thoroughly enjoy the travel; I have had the opportunity to see some incredible places over the last 6 years.
Fran: Fashion is either in your blood or it’s not. You are born with it and both Laura and I have it. It’s not for the faint hearted; it’s fast and furious but we do have fun at the same time. You get a kick out of it.
Fran & Jane Wholesale Ltd., Unit 14, Fashion City, Ballymount Road Upper, Ballymount, Dublin 24.
T: +353 1 4080853
F: +353 1 4295528