The Golden Egg Fashion Innovation Awards ( www.goldenegg.ie ) were on in Galway last week. My old school friend Susannagh Grogan, who I used to smoke Sobranie cocktail cigarettes with in the nun’s orchard, had her scarves nominated for the accessories award.
We were pretty excited on the way in to the Radisson as the scarves have done very well in the last year, but it quickly became clear that the standard was exceptional and the competition no walkover.
Your attitude changed to ‘let’s just enjoy the evening’, which we did, a lot, slipping back easily into our teenage relationship. There were three milliners and two handbag designers in her category. Hats had won the previous year so they may have been at a disadvantage, but it is hard to compete against a nice handbag.
I asked Susannagh what had pushed her to strike out on her own after twenty years of international freelance design.
She said one day she was listening to a chat show on the radio and she sent in a text about a broken extractor fan in her bathroom. They rang her back to ask her to talk live on air and she said she couldn’t possibly do that- too embarrassing. When she put down the phone she berated herself for being so wet, and decided the next time someone asked her to do something, whether she liked the idea or not, she would face the fear and say yes, you only live once and all that… The phone rang and she was asked if she would like to go on a reality TV programme ‘5 women go back to work’. The format was that 5 women, who had taken a career break to have children, would work in a publishing house in different capacities for a few weeks and one would win a job.
Susannagh was taken on as graphic designer and was the first victim, on the very first episode, to be emotionally targeted. The project for the week was a mood board for a fashion feature. Her two bosses, one male, one female, proceeded to rip her ideas to pieces and suggest she was useless. I expect she was meant to cry (great TV) however she did not crack. Having studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design and worked as senior designer for prints in London and New York, she quickly recovered with:
‘I think that is completely unfair…’
She came away with her dignity intact and the two arrogant Celtic tiger bosses looked like bullies. After the show she realised that she could compete with any of the high fliers she had met and with a small dose of assertiveness, in 2009, she launched her own label. This was her second scarf collection.
She did win:
‘Accessory designer of the year 2011’ and €1000.00 worth of advertising.
She held her 2 ft high bronze lady aloft on the catwalk and shouted ‘THANK YOU’ into the microphone and everyone turned to admire the beautiful scarf I was wearing.
I am now the proud owner of ‘Floral Happiness’ an exquisite, huge, 100% silk twill, 4ftsq fringed scarf. (www.scarf.ie)