The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Deirdre Duffy, the talented Irish designer and hand-weaver, was en-route to climb a mountain when we caught up with her recently to learn about how she’s developing her brand Wild Cocoon, the importance of integrity and the positive impact awards and accolades have had on her growing business.

Photo of The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Deirdre and Wild Cocoon recently exhibited at Maison & Objet as part of the Design Ireland flagship stand, which was located in a specially selected area entitled “Design a Vivre”. Maison & Objet is a prestigious international trade fair and the most important in Europe. It attracts 40,000 trade buyers from around the globe - all keen to see the newest products and latest styles for the modern home.

Photo of The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Wild Cocoon products tend to be stocked by small, discerning boutiques and lifestyle stores as well as high-end department stores. At Maison & Objet, Deirdre picked up a number of new retailers as well garnering plenty of interest from buyers in Germany, the UK, Denmark and the United States. 

Photo of The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Wild Cocoon was established in 2015 when Deirdre returned to making and designing following a hiatus of a number of years after graduating from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin during which she worked as store manager for renowned fabric, soft furnishings and haberdashery retailer, Hickeys.  

Deirdre says hand-making her woven blankets and scarves wasn't something that she consciously set out to do in business, but that she loves working on the loom - building up colours and layers of textures as she goes. "It's a colour story which is built up on the loom," she says. "It's all about balance - it's like painting, adding layers as you go." 

Photo of The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Deirdre says that designing a new collection is a focused job which requires an open and creative mindset. She usually begins by selecting the yarn and chooses the colours for her collection based on an intuitive sense of how the colours will work together. "I usually work on three or four different colour-ways and create samples to see how they will work," she says. 

Photo of The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Deirdre currently works in lambswool which she says is very much in keeping with her aesthetic and Wild Cocoon’s brand values. "Lambswool suits my brand. It is usable and everyday - it's hard wearing so you don't have to be too precious about it - it's sturdy, durable and warm," she says.

Lambswool suits my brand: it is usable, everyday and hard-wearing so you don't have to be too precious about it.

Wild Cocoon blankets and accessories are easily recognisable for their harmonious colour schemes and unique appeal. Each one, being handmade, is slightly different from the next and the blankets are perfect for keeping on the back of the sofa or to bring into the garden to keep evening chills at bay. 

In keeping with her blankets, Deirdre's scarves and accessories are akin to mini personal blankets - enveloping the wearer in colour and warmth.


Photo of The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Operating from Claremorris in Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland has its challenges as well as its advantages for Wild Cocoon. 

Deirdre says that she is lucky to have fast fibre broadband and that she is inspired by the active and efficient business community in the town. Whilst travelling to meet buyers or retailers can be time-consuming, this is balanced by her rural lifestyle and proximity to the Wild Atlantic Way. 

"I look out my window and see cows, sheep and fields - when I left Dublin I was ready to work in a more quiet location," she says.


Photo of The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Deirdre's background as a store manager with Hickeys has, she says, proven invaluable experience when it comes to running her own business. "Not only was Hickeys a lovely place to work but it taught me a lot," she says.

"What I realised is that you are really only managing time. If you treat people with respect and let them get on with their jobs, it is really only time that you are managing," she says. 

Working there also provided valuable insight into budgeting and putting proposals together, dealing with people at a professional level and also provided an insight into what consumers buy (sometimes as opposed to what they think they want when they come into the store). 

Winning awards gives retailers more confidence in your product - they are less nervous about coming in at a higher price point for a handmade product.

Last year Deirdre was awarded the double accolade of Irish Accessory Designer of the Year 2017 and Overall Innovation Award 2017 at the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards. Deirdre says that for a creative person such as herself running a small business, such awards are crucial in terms of personal and professional development. 

"Personally I was shocked to win. I think it's easy, as a creative person, to be overly critical and winning such awards can really boost your confidence as a designer. Professionally speaking, winning awards such as these gives retailers more confidence in your product. They are less nervous about coming in at a higher price point with your hand-made product and have more confidence in the brand." 

Photo of The Woven Magic of Wild Cocoon

Working intuitively with wool to create beautiful products, it’s clear that Deirdre works from her gut instinct and her intuition and recommends that other creative business people do the same. 

“My advice is to go with your gut instinct,” she says. “You can get advice from everyone but you have to filter that advice and decide what feels right for you.” She also advises those starting out in business to seek advice from mentors such as those in Design Ireland and to carefully set out terms and conditions when dealing with retailers. 

“A lot of it comes down to mutual respect,” she says. “And going with your gut instinct.” 


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