In the time of Amazon, Shein and ASOS, it is impossible not to fall victim to cheap, unsustainable overconsumption. Not only the environment, but the integrity of fashion as a form of self-expression is endangered by the ease and convenience of mass chains, which are only able to keep prices so low through unethical production. Individuality and creativity fall behind in this mass-production dystopia. Even when we want to make an effort to support local art, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are five Dublin-based small businesses to support, owned and led through passion, as opposed to greed. They may not sell you a shirt for €3.99, but their pieces have character and integrity.
Have a spare hour between lectures? Need some retail therapy after a long day at college? This free-spirited brand is incredibly accessible to Trinity students, with a physical store in St George’s Arcade. Seeking Judy caters to all genders. Their aesthetic is difficult to box in, but can perhaps be best described as graffiti meeting nature. Cool and carefree silhouettes and textures carry patterns of flowers and eyes in earthy tones, but also bright colours. Think Patagonia on a psychedelic trip. Seeking Judy places emphasis on environmental consciousness and sustainability. Recently, as can be seen on their Instagram, the brand has been branching out towards haute couture pieces, reaching the big milestone of featuring in the 2023 Arnotts Christmas market. Their pieces will certainly be seen on both individual consumers and runways in 2024!
It does not get any more ‘Dublin’ than Ditsy Bits. Proud of their Irish heritage, the brand’s defining piece is a baby tee depicting a pint of Guinness and the word “Sláinte”. For those who are not Guinness drinkers, other Irish symbols can also be found on their shirts. However, they are certainly not limited to this. Handcrafted bags and accessories made from unique fabrics and patterns have also been featured in previous drops. The brand takes trendy concepts and puts their own spin on them, they are not afraid of colour or standing out. Ditsy Bits offers practical items such as large bags and versatile tees in a unique and cute style. Each design is limited to its drop and made in small quantities to be sold through their website. Their instagram page is the best way to stay up to date on upcoming drops. Furthermore, their social media presence makes the brand feel authentic, down to earth and approachable. Their models are real people, with real bodies and real smiles. A brand that feels like a part of the community is very refreshing amongst the current norm of overproduced and edited advertisements.
Describing themselves as “handmade slow fashion”, Aising Duffy had to get a mention on this list. Though their pieces are on the pricier end — expect to spend at least €100 — they are guaranteed to get you showered in compliments. What could be described as a 2020s take on Marie Antoinette centres around frills, the colour pink, ribbons and heart shapes. In Aisling Duffy’s designs, the hyper-feminine meets oversized silhouettes, giving it a cool edge. You will find skirts, dresses, tops, collars and accessories on sale, styled in a modern yet timeless fashion, all throughout their impressive social media presence.
Palmö is the smallest brand featured on this list, with less than 1,000 followers on Instagram and only a handful of items. Now is the perfect time to invest in this brand, just before its inevitable blow-up to popularity. A more affordable catalogue with €23 t-shirts and €41 hoodies may not be available for long, once the word about this brand gets out. The carefree, almost child-like, cartoon designs are available on t-shirts, sweaters, hoodies, beanies and print. The bright colours and relaxed designs promote a positive mood and good vibes. Despite their relatively small following, the Instagram page has high production value bound to make you smile. Palmö’s eco-friendly packaging and 100 per cent cotton shirts are a huge plus!
For those looking for local streetwear and the culture surrounding it, Emporium is the answer. Their cool aesthetic goes beyond their clothes, creating a community around the brand. With a Trinity College alumnus in leadership, Emporium cater their pieces towards all genders and sizes. Their website is password protected, and pop-ups are far and few between. However, if you keep an eye out on their Instagram page, you may catch much more than just clothes, as they have previously hosted events with local DJs, bringing together like-minded streetwear fans.