Business of fashion: spinning virtual threads

The designer explained that his values include striving for quality over quantity. Credit: Healy's Instagram

When he walked into the coffee shop, heads immediately turned.

It was either his subtle, yet eccentric, brown waving over-coat, or the 1965 Pentax 6×7 camera he carried by his waist. As he sat across the table, he took a picture of a delicate red teacup positioned on a table nearby. The loud mechanical click from the half-century-old camera’s shutter closing drew the attention of the surrounding coffee addicts. They were intrigued.

Sitting across the table from this journalist was Reyce Healy, a young fashion designer from Newbridge, Co Kildare, who created the popular online brand, “Nostalgia”. Like many young creators, Healy uses Instagram as a platform to sell his creations. He has built up a small but loyal following of 1,000 people, who instantly sell out his fashion drops.

As he ordered a small latte, he explained how the business began.

“It started as a creative outlet, I was always really into photography, but the page eventually evolved into a clothes brand because I wanted to see how far I could go with it. I started with a run of 24 tee shirts and quickly
turned a profit on them,” he said.

He proceeded to drop a sugar cube into the milky latte and gave it a gentle stir. The two middle-aged women sitting to the left of us were still interested in his presence, brushing their hair behind their ears while giving him a fast look.

Surprisingly, the 21-year-old didn’t find his creative flair until he was 16.

“Clothing wise, I had a pretty boring taste up until I started to earn my own money and buy my own clothes. I was able to experiment with what I wanted to wear. Then on my 16th birthday, I bought my first digital camera, so I suppose the financial freedom and the camera kind of sparked some creativity and imagination in me,” he said laughingly.

His character is relaxed yet passionate. He takes his art seriously but is not conceited.

The Ryan Gosling Doppelganger is a student at Maynooth University, who also has a part-time job. How did he start an online business while juggling the responsibilities of student life?

“I suppose it all comes to priorities, to start a business you need money and to get money you need a job. The business isn’t currently my main priority because I’ve bills to pay and college to go to, so I try to fit working on the brand in any spare time I have,” he said in a more serious tone.

He then offered a piece of advice for students who want to establish their own hustle.

“It’s never gonna be overnight, you’ll get a bit of success and then everything will go quiet for a while, so you have to keep with it. If it’s something you really want to do it might take years.

“But if you have an idea take the chance and see how it goes, if you fail, you’ll learn from it for the next time”. The eavesdropping women seemed to be gripped by his maturity. They had finished their scones well before we began our discussion. It seems they were hungry for a stranger’s story, as they sat in subtle silence.

His values for the brand are a testament to his character. He’s not a greedy businessman who is trying to maximise profit, he believes that it’s better to strive for quality over quantity.

“The new collection that just came out is all made in Ireland, that’s a principle I want to maintain. It gives me piece of mind knowing that people are working under the right working conditions and it also helps the local economy,” he said after finally granting the two ladies a small glance.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the young creator is his business philosophy. He is not concerned with the pursuit of money; his primary concern is providing his customers with a product they will really cherish. “It’s not about the profit you generate from the customer, it’s about the value you’re generating for the customer. Ultimately, I’m trying to build a community that lets me give back to the customer,” he explained.

The afternoon coffee goers had started to leave, including the two inquisitive women, who seemed satisfied with the small amount of attention they received. The foam from the coffee stained the glass in a pattern that resembled a soil horizon. I couldn’t help but think about the images the historic camera had processed, as it sat facing me on the wooden table.

Once the room became quieter, Reyce articulated his beliefs about what it takes to establish an online brand. “I think a lot of people in our generation want instant results and instant gratification, but I do believe that if anyone did try and pursue something like this and they don’t succeed in the way they thought they would, they would still learn valuable lessons from it. You’ll definitely understand the value of money and how to be patient, so there’s a silver lining in everything,” he said confidently.

My time with Reyce was coming to an end, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe while talking to him. He is undeniably certain about himself, his character and the values he wants to bring to the world. In a generation who are obsessed with social affirmation and who conform to certain looks and stereotypes, it’s promising to see people like Reyce who are original, yet not arrogant. From a student’s perspective, seeing his approach to working and how efficient he is should be an example to all young people who have a vision. All you need is an Instagram account and a small amount of money to turn this vision into reality.

“I’ve to go and collect the little brother from school now, but it was great talking to you,” he said, as he left to beat the traffic.

Craig Shaaban

Image credit: Healy’s Instagram