Seven years ago, Carousel was in trouble. The Irish economy was in collapse, and Carousel, like many small businesses at the time, looked like it might become victim to the recession. A shop providing vintage and vintage inspired women’s clothing in Dublin city centre, Carousel stocked the shop with clothing bought from other brands at trade shows. But this model wasn’t working for Carousel anymore. Buying in stock from other brands was expensive, and at the time, Carousel was losing money. The future was bleak. For the business to continue, owner Tom Walsh had to find a new way of doing business. So he created Carousel’s very own women’s vintage inspired range – Circus.
The Circus Story
Walsh has run Carousel in Dublin for seventeen years, having previous experience buying for Selfridges, London, and then buying vintage for his own business in Camden Market. Having an eye for vintage fashion, Walsh knew what the Carousel customer wanted. Circus aimed to make high quality, but affordable, vintage inspired fashion, for the woman that cared more about expressing personal style, than the latest fast fashion trend. Another important factor was that the clothing be made ethically, unlike the questionable production values of many high street brands. With that in mind, Walsh set about finding a factory where Circus could be produced. After a long time looking and trying out factories around the world, eventually found the right one though a contact in the U.K. That factory was Good Earth India, based in Delhi, India.
Walsh believes that in order to deliver the best product possible, it is vital that it is produced in a factory where the employees are treated ethically and with respect. Good Earth is a spacious, modern factory, with very comfortable conditions for all of its employees. It’s work spaces are well lit and air conditioned. The factory adheres strictly to minimum working age and maximum working hours per week. There are policies in place to deal with worker safety, protecting the environment, and sexual harassment in the workplace. The factory is kept up to standard by the owner, Udayan Kapur. Kapur and Walsh are in frequent contact, almost daily. The factory is SEDEX approved and receives regular audits. Apart from these audits, Walsh makes regular trips to the factory, to check that both the product and workplace are up to standard. Walsh’s design for shapes and prints are then finalised with the help of the team there.
The road to Circus was bumpy at first. Putting together a whole range from scratch requires a lot of trial and error. Apart from the problems of finance, distance from the factory, and communications issues, it took a while to get garment fits right and consistent. Walsh discovered that one of the perks of developing your own brand is that you can take on board customer feedback, and make improvements and adjustments accordingly. Customers are an integral part of the development process. Sleeves have been added, more pockets, new buttons, hem adjustments, adding sizes, print choices – these are just some of the changes that have been implemented because of suggestions customers.
The end product is a collection that is bursting with rich colour and unique, fun prints, all combined with classic shapes that flatter and fit well. Circus is for the woman who likes to express her personal style, and stand out in a world full of homogeneous fashion. A fan of music and film, creative, opinionated, and clever, fun loving, but hardworking, the Circus woman wants clothing that embodies all of this. Easy to style, comfortable but chic, the Circus range allows you to get on with modern life in vintage style.
The Circus Story: The Future
Circus saved Carousel. Without this range, it’s likely the well loved independent shop in the heart of Dublin City would have had to close down. Independent businesses are so important for creativity and diversity in a city. Carousel now employs up to twelve people, with more staff being added as the business grows. Carousel has been able to expand to the online market at www.ilovecarousel.com, a shop in Cork city centre, and mores shops will be opening soon. Walsh and the Good Earth factory continue to work together, and recently became partners, further solidifying their commitment to producing high quality clothing for Circus.
Circus is thriving, and continues to grow day by day. It is in a constant state of development and improvement, as Walsh and the team at Carousel work on new shapes, patterns, and more. A hit with women all over the world, with customers as far as Australia, Japan, and the U.S, Circus has built up a loyal fan base. Customers collect their favorite shapes and patterns, eagerly waiting for the latest arrivals. Circus has been recognised by the press at home and abroad, including the New York Times and The Irish Times, and has celebrity fans like Uma Thurman and Clodagh McKenna. Not bad for an independent Irish range, that emerged from the dark days of the recession. Just like it’s fabrics and patterns, the future is looking bright for Circus!