For as long as Lynsey McGarrigle can remember she wanted to be a fashion designer.
The 26 year-old North West Regional College graduate has hit the industry like a whirlwind since the launch of her Haus Of MoHawk label last year, showcasing twice at London Fashion Week and designing bespoke pieces for a host of well-known celebrities.
But it’s been far from an overnight success story for the Strabane woman.
“From a very young age I was interested in design,” she recalls. “My mother's favourite story is about a time when our living room curtains were sacrificed to make Barbie's new Autumn Winter wardrobe.
“My first year art teacher was a major influence too, she had such passion for art that as a student I couldn't help but immerse myself in all things design.
“Although my label launched just over a year ago, I had been working in fashion since the age of 15 through working in retail, modelling and beauty pageants.
“I developed my own fashion brand after graduating from the North West Regional College in Derry in 2012 where I graduated with distinction in both my foundation degree in Art and Design and a Higher National Diploma in Fashion and Textile Design.”
Lynsey was already standing out by that point having picked up The Adria Award in 2010 for Best Fashion Design and The Desmond and Sons Award Cup for Best Textile Collection 2012.
Her career as a model and beauty queen was gathering pace too and after being crowned Miss Tyrone in 2011 she went on to claim Miss United Nations Ireland and Miss United Nations Europe titles.
She was slowly gathering the necessary experience and knowledge of the fashion industry to take the plunge and launch her own label last year but it was the start-up business expertise and advice she received through Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Go For It programme that allowed her to turn that lifelong dream into a sustainable reality.
“The Go For It Program assisted me greatly in overcoming the business related challenges of start-up,” she admits.
“The main obstacle I had to overcome while formally setting up the business was the business side of the company. I could do the creative, artistic elements and what I was qualified to do being a fashion designer but where things lacked was the integral business element of the business; the business plan, business banking, sourcing funding, learning to keep accounts, registering with HMRC.
“Without their support Haus Of MoHawk would not be where it is today and on a personal note I have learnt a lot through the program and have become much more business savvy.”
Haus Of MoHawk is a ladies occasional wear brand that caters for red carpet events and special occasions and now boasts clients across three continents of the world.
The label was resident in the Four Seasons Hotel in Beijing in conjunction with China Fashion Week and this year received the Best New Business title at the Strabane Chamber of Commerce and Industry Awards.
She couldn’t have asked for a better first 12 months in Business but she believes it is a success she has earned by remaining focused on her dreams in often challenging circumstances.
“Like many others in this industry, the journey hasn't been an easy path to trudge,” she conceded. “At times it has been an uphill battle of determination, financial difficulties, self doubt and perseverance against all odds because the dream is too much to give up.
“It’s been a journey of education and in the end a leap of faith to just go out there and make things happen for the love of my art. I don’t believe in luck, I believe in creating destiny, that keeping focused on the end goal will be enough of a reckoning force to achieve my aspirations.
“From a very young age I always dreamt of owning and running my own empire. I wanted to be able to do what I love and be in the position to take charge, make decisions and choose the course of my own life's destiny regardless of the obstacles.
“In the fashion industry you learn to move quickly, whether that be making decisions or physical work; time waits for no one so with everything in life you need to seize the opportunity when it presents itself to you. Essentially time is money.”
With major plans in the coming months, the pace of Haus of MoHawk’s progress shows no signs of letting up but a love of what she is doing coupled with an insatiable work ethic means Lynsey is up for the challenge.
“The business is still a work in progress,” she continued. “The luxury of the fashion industry is that you get out what you put in.
“I am a great believer that you cannot out work someone who refuses to be outworked and Haus Of MoHawk's client list for 2017 is ever growing.
“I hope to continue developing the brand on a national and international scale whilst holding onto the strong roots within Northern Ireland that established it.
“I have a few exciting projects and shows in the next number of months and along with a few very busy months I hope to explore the possibility of manufacturing later this year.
“So the future is promising and I feel truly blessed to be able to wake each morning and do what I love.”
- article courtesy of Derry City and Strabane District Council