Irish Design Spotlight: Seeking Judy

Tell us more about your company and brand.
I am a fashion designer and textile designer currently living in Dublin. Seeking Judy is my store in Georges St. Arcade. These days, the shop also doubles as an office/studio space as I am there most days and tend to get a lot of admin/knitting/designing done between customers. I also have a studio in Dundalk that I use to make my garment samples, take the photos for lookbooks and keep stock. I am a Creative Spark Dundalk member. Since joining, I’ve been able learn a lot about printing styles, and I have also learned from the amazing technicians there.

When I was 15, Seeking Judy started as a hobby to make pocket money. I would put some etches on t-shirts and sell them in local markets and pop ups. I chose to study fashion at NCAD in order to gain knowledge about garment construction, and to eventually grow my brand and business. I graduated with a BA honors from NCAD and an LCI Barcelona international degree in 2019. I had planned to intern in New York after graduation on a graduate Visa. Covid put an end to these plans when all visas under Trump were revoked. So, with the extra free time I had, I decided I would restart the brand. Fabric shops were shut, so I made a lot of my earlier work using found materials and by reworking old garments.

I experimented with various styles of illustrations and found one that was colourful, nostalgic and fun. Reflecting, I realized that my inspiration came from the idea of escapism. I imagined a world happier than the one in which we all lived at the time. I began by focusing on nature and the notion that everything in our environment was alive and possessed a personality. I’ve had a lot of fun with this idea since and anyone familiar with my work will know that there are eyes and faces everywhere!

Going forward, I’m excited to bring this world alive through other mediums besides clothing. I’m very lucky that being self-employed and with limited funds means that I have had to do a lot of things myself – photography, set design, painting and designing the shops – it’s given me a whole host of skills, and a really strong concept of the world these things live in.

What is the mission of your organization?
Short-term, create products of high quality that will last a lifetime. To expand my range so that if my customers wanted, they could buy all their clothing here – head-to-toe SJ! When it comes to the design, sourcing and sale of our products, we want to continue acting responsibly, ethically, and sustainably. In the long term, I’d like to create an immersive environment. I would like to collaborate with Irish designers and artists to create meaningful experiences in Dublin. I don’t want this to stop at clothing. Ireland is full of talent. I want collaborate, promote, and support other creatives. I also want to show that Ireland has a lot of creativity and culture. This must be a joint effort between artists and public. Since a long time, SJ and fashion has been my way of self-expression. But the goal is to encourage and support self-expression with everyone.

You always knew you wanted to design?
I’ve always been interested in fabric and textiles. My dad and mam owned a clothing shop, as did my grandad. I’ve grown up around clothes. As a child, I was always drawn to clothing. At 15, however, my original plan was to open a vintage-style online shop. However, I really had to toss a coin in college to decide whether I would do Textiles Art and Artifact (TAA), an Art course, or Fashion Design – part of the design school. Fashion was my choice because I wanted to learn practical skills like pattern making and construction. This was a great choice. This summer I will do a residency to allow me to spend some time exploring textiles in a more relaxed way. I’m trying to find the balance of commercial (the design world) and full freedom of expression – textile art/ sculpture.

What type of merchandise do you have in stock?
Knitted jumpers and hoodies. T-shirts. Scarves. Hats. Socks. Fine art prints. And, most recently, an accessory line that includes handbags of various sizes and purposes.

What new products or brands are you interested in?
KNWLS STUDIOS, Chopova Lowena, FANCi, Paula Canovasdelvas, Charlie Constantinou, Gui Rosa, Marta Mangano. My next trainer purchase will probably be Asics and I’m loving the colourful tights/patterned tights trend. I’m a hoarder because so many old clothes and accessories are great for reworking into new pieces. That’s been my thing for a while now.

What is the Difference Between a Person and a Person? When starting up, is funding a major concern?
Yes, of course. This brand was started with money that I earned from selling my personal possessions. So anything is possible, but also the scale was very different back then – it was just a bit of fun. Quantities were low, and overheads were non-existent. Nevertheless, I kept the money and relaunched my brand using it. It’s only now that this is a business that funding is a bigger issue. It costs a fortune to produce a style in a factory. Samples are also expensive. Social media companies will charge you money to promote posts. Everything costs, and as a small business it’s tough… but it is what it is. There are grants out there, and it’s been my New Year’s resolution to apply to as many as possible so wish me luck, please!

What’s the best business advice you’ve gotten?
“Spend more time working on the business than in the business.” I’m trying to implement that now.

Style inspiration comes from who?

@1grannary – students  and up-and-coming designers. @Eli1ah – good industry advice and quotes (music-oriented, but still applicable). @Antwerpmemedepartment for a lol.

What’s your best fashion purchase?
I thrifted a YSL coat in Dublin for €75. This was a wonderful day.

What other Irish products do you like?
Laoise Carey Studio, Rioncarnation, Rashhiiid, Colin Horgan, Robyn Lynch, Hope Macaulay, Jessica Anne Harte, Richard Malone, Barbara Bennett, Lia Cowan Design, Mihai Mar.

What’s the most useful learning you’ve had since setting up your business?
Take care of you. Take time to rest and relax.

What’s been the proudest moment so far?
No moment drastically stands out and I’d be hesitant to focus too much on one thing I’ve done because there are so many little steps that lead up to those bigger moments. When a new product for the brand is launched, it’s like a big milestone. Last year, I launched the bag and accessory lines. I’m proud to be in the Arcade. I’m proud to get interviews and features such as this and any time I see someone wearing a piece on the street it makes me feel very happy. On a little bit of a cheesier note, recently I started to imagine telling my younger self that I get to do this for a living, trying to practice gratitude on days it’s not as easy, and that makes me feel really proud because making money from your art and creativity always seemed like such an out of reach idea. Most of us were told growing up to think of a “real” job. So I’m just proud I get to call this a job!

If I could have anyone wear my designs it would be… BAD GAL, RIRI Duh! And, I’ve been told my designs remind people of the flower boy era! And Tyler is the GOAT, so Tyler if you’re reading this slide in my DMs for some free SJ.

Megan McGuigan & Joshua Mulholland.