We catch up with the incredible young designer Ali Delaney, who while recuperating from an operation started the hugely successful fashion line Custom Vintage Dublin. You might have spotted Kylie Jenner sporting a pair of her gorgeous shorts.
Ali has just been shortlisted for an IMAGE Business woman of the Year Award 2014, an accolade that the young designer describes as ‘an honour to even be in the running for’.
What was the inspiration to start Custom Vintage Dublin?
It actually started out by accident really. I was recovering from an operation and was out of work so I needed something to occupy my time. I realized there was nowhere to buy really unique Levis anywhere in Ireland and so I started to make them for my family and friends for summer holidays and festivals! I set up a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram page and it snowballed from there very fast. There was no going back then.
Describe your average working day.
My average working day is different everyday. I am currently in my final year studying Costume Design in college so it varies depending on the time of year! During the summer when I am off college and the Festival Season is in full swing, I literally work crazy days and crazy hours! I usually make shorts all morning and then process other orders in the afternoon before going to the post office to get everything sent. I usually answer emails etc. in the evening in my own time.
What advice would you have for other young designers?
My main advice would be to just go for it, put yourself and your work out there. I’m a pretty private person usually who wouldn’t be big on putting my life out there for everyone to see on Facebook etc. But by just putting my work and business out there on social media without really thinking about it too much, my business just took off unexpectedly. If your pieces/ideas aren’t out there for people to see then nothing can happen, at least if they are out there then you have taken the first step.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Probably just to take the bad with the good. I started the business from nothing, I literally had no clue what I was doing, I hadn’t even studied Business in school or anything, so it has been a huge learning curve for me. I have made so many mistakes and am constantly still learning from them as I go and try not to make the same mistake twice. Not everyone will agree with or like what you do, but you just have to focus on what you’re doing.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a young designer?
Definitely realizing from the very beginning that there will be plenty of people and other businesses that will try and copy your designs or steal your ideas, but you just have to try and be the bigger person and ignore it. I have struggled with this a lot in the past, I think especially as Ireland is such a small place. People always say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that goes for business too!
Who is your number 1 female role model?
I look up to SO many young women that have started their own businesses and have done so well for themselves. The likes of fashion brands such as Sabo Skirt and Shop Jawbreaking, who I have always followed on Instagram, have worldwide followings and are both run by girls in their early 20s.
Also, Marissa Carter who won the Image Start Up Business Award last year is actually a huge inspiration, she’s on her way for world domination when it comes to tanning, it blows my mind how well she has done on such a big scale.
Who’s your ultimate fashion inspiration?
I get fashion inspiration all over the place but I think the likes of Olivia Palermo and Millie Mackintosh usually get it spot on for me no matter what they wear!
What’s your favorite item you’ve designed for CVD?
I have three all time favourites.
1) Obviously the Custom Levi Shorts. I love creating a pair of shorts especially for the particular customer that has ordered them. I really enjoy when I’m emailing the customer and she gives me a bit of leeway with the design, like telling me to add which studs I think work best etc.
2) The Woodstock Crochet Bralets. I designed these tops this summer and they sold out multiple times. They are just so pretty and dainty, and the perfect top for summer nights and festival lovers.
3) Our new Deluxe Pom-Pom Beanies. They are perfect for winter and are genuinely the coziest things ever! I am so happy with the quality of these, they are a super soft knit and have a massive oversized fur pom-pom on top (which is detachable for easy washing).
If you weren’t in this career where do you think you would you be?
If I didn’t have CVD, I would probably go into the film industry as a costume designer, which is what I am studying to do. Another thing I would love to do is be a chef or open a cute café somewhere.
How do you feel about getting short listed for an IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Award?
I am so excited. I had no idea I would even be in the running so to be short listed is crazy for me. I can’t wait for the awards. It is such an honor to even be in the running, especially in the Start Up Category with so many other amazing women.
Check out the other brilliant women who have been short listed, and get your tickets to the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards here.
Hannah Popham @HannahPopham