It's no secret that since the dawning of the pandemic, Irish consumers have become much more mindful in their shopping habits.

Foregoing larger corporations and instead opting to shop small and support local, we want our money to help make a difference.

A business making strides towards a new era of retail, Wild Éire is built on the pillars of mental health advocacy, the promotion of slow fashion and the strong urge to use an online platform to call out injustice and give others a voice.

Starting off as a creative outlet and form of escapism owner Emma Nestor worked on in her downtime, Wild Éire has blossomed into an instantly recognisable brand that not only curates a beautiful selection of vintage gems, but designs sustainable streetwear and one of a kind pieces you won’t find anywhere else.

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With an Instagram following of 43k and counting, it would be easy to believe that this is a large-scale operation when - in reality - it’s still a one woman show. Leaving her day job behind and becoming her own boss in the space of a few short months, Emma has been putting her blood, sweat and tears into building the brand.

"People think when you’ve got a big following that it’s some kind of big corporation, but behind closed doors, I do everything. I package the orders, I design and sew everything, and I can only get so much done in a day. It’s taken time," Emma tells me. "I love every step of the process and I want everything to be sustainable, ethical and transparent."

Emma’s first foray into the realm of fashion came when society decided that we needed a whole new wardrobe for every event we attended. Whipping out her sewing machine and teaching herself the basics, Emma sliced her dad’s old shirt up into a trendy two piece and fell in love with the artform.

Saving vintage and pre-loved pieces from ending up in landfill, a Wild Éire design gives old textiles a new lease of life. Speaking on her zero-waste commitment, Emma says, "when I’m making my reworks, every single stitch gets used. Even if there are cutoffs from the machine, I put them in a bag and once I’ve built up enough they’re used for sleeping bags and mattresses - nothing goes to waste but it’s a very lengthy process."

"The thing with fast fashion is that it’s the easy way out, but it’s destroying the planet and exploiting people."

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While Wild Éire never claims to be perfect, this is one small business that is committed to listening, learning and growing. Acutely aware of the privilege associated with sustainable fashion, Emma pinpoints accessibility, inclusivity and building a real community space as the cornerstones of the business.

"My whole goal with Wild Éire is to be the very best brand we can be. I want people to feel comforted by and part of the business. I don’t want people to feel that they can't afford or wear our pieces, and I want people to feel like they can relate to our ethos."

Cultivating a community through her willingness to share her own experiences, Emma does not shy away from sharing the often bleak realities of living with mental health struggles. 'I attempted to take my life,’ the business bio reads. ‘I let years of trauma and pain build up and just felt completely hopeless and broken.’

Diagnosed with ADHD and Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as suffering with anxiety and body dysmorphia, Emma refuses to invalidate her feelings by brushing them under the carpet. Shaking off the shackles of shame that are so often associated with mental illness, Emma is using her voice to effect positive change.

"I think in this day and age, people are a little bit detached from things because of social media. You care so much and everything impacts you, but at the same time we are so disconnected. I made the decision early on that I wanted Wild Éire to be a brand that would be there to help when you feel stuck."

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Having experienced what it’s like to feel so alone that it seems as though there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, Emma wants to help provide a safe space for those who need it. An empath through and through, this is one small business owner who’s in it for much more than the money.

"Building that community and making people believe that they’re valid are huge parts of this for me. The dream is that if I had a shop, I’d love for it to be a place where people can come and chat if they felt they didn’t have anyone to talk to. Anyone, any walk of life would be welcome as long as they’re respectful of everyone else. I want people to know that they should never have to change themselves to be accepted."

Advised by many that sharing so much of herself and using Wild Éire as a platform to start a discussion from would only end up alienating the audience, Emma refused to change her morals for anyone. Through her candure, a support system has been cultivated.

"I’m a business woman, a friend, a daughter and I’m also my own person, but I’ll always want to be there for the people that need help… I get messages from people dealing with suicidal thoughts and struggling to find resources, so if I can point them in the direction of what I find useful and let them know they’re not alone, I will absolutely take the time to do it."

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However, one person can only do so much and education is paramount.

"In Irish culture, we’re getting more comfortable talking about mental health - but that’s only scratching the surface. We don’t get into the nitty gritty of what it involves and the nuances of different mental illnesses. There are times when I’m filled with rage or I can’t get out of bed, and people need to understand that that’s due to a literal chemical imbalance in the brain."

"These are the stigmas that I want to break and that’s why I’m so open with it. I’m trying to normalise the side effects that aren’t spoken about in a way that’s not all doom and gloom, because that just makes people feel more alone."

At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, in the aftermath of Aisling Murphy’s death and right now during the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, Wild Éire spreads awareness, shares resources and opens doors for people who want to help but don’t know how.

The healing process is a lifelong journey, but finding an outlet that will encourage creativity and bring you joy really does help. For Emma, pouring energy into Wild Éire is invigorating, and has allowed her to host pop-up shops and support other Irish creators - but there is no one quick fix.

"It’s completely okay to not feel okay. Just because you’re going through a really shitty time, you don’t have to be happy 24/7 - no one is! Your experiences and emotions are completely valid. Reach out and speak up because there’s no shame in it. Don’t feel like you have to change anything about yourself to fit in, your life is meaningful and we were all put here for a reason."

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ.

If you have been affected by issues raised in this story, please visit: www.rte.ie/helplines.