MURALA is the brainchild of Sandra Murphy and Alan Kelly, two creative talents who spent many years working for industry giants such as Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, and Topshop.
Launching a clothing label is no mean feat, even for these veterans of the fashion world.
Alan Kelly and Sandra Murphy chose Ennis, Co. Clare as the headquarters of their newly conceptualised ethical brand. Established in 2017, MURALA aims to re-envision the perception of sustainable, affordable fashion, “one garment at a time”.
Like many other young graduates, Kelly and Murphy, who cut their teeth at the Limerick School of Art and Design, emigrated from Ireland in pursuit of fashion experience overseas.
For Clare native Murphy, that desire to work abroad led to a 16-year stint in New York honing her craft at leading US fashion brands such as Victoria’s Secret, GAP and Original Penguin. During her tenure in the city, she also lectured at the renowned design school, Parsons.
Limerick-born Kelly has worked as a creative pattern cutter and designer for many of the high-street’s most recognisable brands including Topshop, Urban Outfitters, and ASOS. Leaving London was not, he admits, actually a difficult decision, as the duo were both keen to return home to “do things their own way”. Not to mention, achieve the elusive “work life balance” that is often missing from the equation in the world’s busiest fashion capitals!
With Murphy as creative director and Kelly as design director, MURALA offers premium ready-to-wear pieces such as printed midi dresses, skirts, neck scarves, and blouses.
“I was ready for a change and after 16 years I had checked-off more career goals than I had ever hoped I would in New York,” Murphy said. “My plan was to spend an extended break at home before moving on elsewhere in Europe, wherever that might have been.”
“I'm the last person who thought that would have been Ireland but now that MURALA is live, it all makes sense. We are excellently located to strong transport links to our European production base,” she added.
“Similarly, Ireland’s renowned LSAD is minutes down the road meaning we are in position to create local jobs for Ireland’s growing pool of young, talented designers as we grow.”
Murphy is proud to be “spearheading the start of a new industry” for Clare.
“The local enterprise office has been extremely encouraging, supporting our growth with both funding and advice - its recognition of our passion and MURALA’s potential is really motivating,” she stated.
“New York, as you can imagine, was a rewarding experience and offered me experiences and roles as a young designer that I wouldn’t have had here. The city really afforded me the chance to grow and develop my skills and define my design style and ethos.”
On that note, she maintains that MURALA has been developed no differently than it would have been in London or New York. The skill, passion, and knowledge that the award-winning designers obtained abroad is very much intact.
The label's striking prints, executed using traditional and modern design techniques such as digital drawing, are the result of her vision. Everything from Clare’s Georgian townhouses to Ireland’s natural landscape inspire her creations.
“After years of being away, it’s lovely to be closer to friends and family and this paired with the new scenery on my doorstep lends itself well to a changed perspective on the world around me – vital for designing new prints for the brand,” she reflected.
Kelly agrees that the duo are “incredible lucky” to finally be collaborating on their Irish-based label after years of dreaming about it.
“Nowadays you can live almost anywhere and run a successful business – there are very little limitations when it comes to location,” he said. “Sandra and I had actually always talked about collaborating - there was just that small matter of the Atlantic Ocean between us, so it didn’t come as a massive surprise to me when we decided to go for it.”
Kelly is a part-time lecturer at Limerick School of Art and Design, where he continues to share his impressive industry experience with the college’s next generation of talent.
“I love London, and particularly loved living and working there - the grit and the creativity of the city is infectious, especially when in a creative role. I still have an amazing circle of friends in London and after 16 years, I still have a strong connection to the city both personally and professionally. However, the pros such as being closer to my family and the beautiful Irish coast, beat an espresso martini at Radio or Dean St Townhouse every time!”
The designers believe that Irish consumers “really care” about supporting local. With Murphy’s striking prints and Kelly’s unique, versatile silhouettes, it’s clear to see why MURALA is already standing out amongst the competition.
“This is really rewarding, as is the response to the current collection with our customers commending both the design and our approach,” Kelly said. “As we grow the brand, we will hold on to what makes it unique and carry these values through in everything we do, be it moving into physical retail or expanding the brand into a full lifestyle offering – the options for us, we feel, are endless.”
The current collection, produced ethically in Poland, features garments with impressive detail such as the ‘Bleeker’ blouse which is constructed with a three-quarter length bishop sleeve and pleated neck-tie, balancing its relaxed fit. The functional ‘Crosby’ skirt, which has become somewhat of a hero product for the label, is a comfortable midi-length and features a practical pocket detail - ideal for on-the-go women and busy mothers.
Both Murphy and Kelly understand that today’s consumer wants to feel good in their clothes, but also feel good about their clothes, and so the brand is incredibly conscious of its environmental footprint and is rooted in ethical values. MURALA fabrics are digitally printed - an eco-friendly process using less water, energy, and chemicals than other printing methods, and leaving behind very little material waste.
MURALA’s current collection is available to purchase online at murala.com