Written by Jordan Doherty
Northern Ireland designer Amy Anderson, whose brand ‘Kindred of Ireland’ has been published in UK Vogue and Tatler magazine to name just a few, talks about what it was that inspired the business. The brand which was founded in 2018, very cleverly combines an important part of local history with modern styles and designs. We spoke to Amy to find out more about ‘Kindred of Ireland’, and discover why was this combination of the past and present so important her.
Amy studied at Ulster University, and it was at their arts campus in Belfast that she developed an interest in the local history of Linen. ‘During my final year of university at the Art College in Belfast, I became even more fascinated with the industry and the personal connection I had to it. Upon discovering an old newspaper cutting of my grandmother spinning linen in Moygashel, I began to dream of bringing those old traditions and techniques to life again through timeless, fun and wearable design. When designing products, I try to honour those elements of our history with fresh vision to make it relevant to those who will wear Kindred pieces.’
Kindred is also a sustainable brand. The core fabric of the brand is linen, and is not only the oldest known fibre, it is also one of the most sustainable materials. At its peak, the linen industry employed 40 percent of the workforce in Northern Ireland. In communities throughout Ireland, linen was much more than a fabric. It was a symbol of pride. Amy explained to us that ‘Kindred was birthed out of a desire to breathe new, contemporary life into an industry Ireland was famous for and one which employed many of my own family members over the years.’ The brands website also states how their sustainable approach ‘places value on the individual which often gets lost in today’s fast fashion culture.’
Amy explained that sustainability was; ‘So important. I wanted to create a brand that valued people and the planet, as well as the product. From the outset, our central value has been to pursue sustainability from everything to where we source our materials, to creating pieces that will serve a real purpose in your wardrobe, that you’ll treasure for a long time and eventually pass on to your own ‘Kindred’. We are a made-to-order brand, meaning pieces are made after the order is placed. This results in little-to-no waste, and we are creative with our fabric scraps to make scrunchies and other fun pieces.’
Along with being a sustainable brand, they also work with local manufacturers which they pride as one of their core values; ‘It goes hand-in-hand with our sustainability ethos. We source all our fabric within Ireland, manufacturing all happens locally, and we try as much as possible to support local independent stores when stocking up on things like threads, tools and equipment. This both supports the local economy and reduces our carbon footprint. We are very proud to be an Irish brand and feel that every part of what we do should reflect that heritage.’
The brand not only works with local manufacturers but also works with and supports a local charity; ‘We are proud of our collaboration with a local charity, Flourish NI. Flourish do amazing work in providing tailored aftercare support to survivors of trafficking here in Northern Ireland. Over the last two years, Kindred has partnered with Flourish in their Sew and Skill programme.’
The Sew and Skill programme gives training in sewing, pattern cutting and hand stitching along with an up-skilling programme which develops confidence in areas of team building, time management, personal budgeting, and CV creation. ‘This use of creativity as a tool for positive social change is exactly what Kindred is about. In this spirit, 10% from every Kindred purchase will be sown back into the work that Flourish do through their sew and skill programme’, Amy told us.
The pandemic has been a very difficult time for most people, but Amy was able to find the silver lining in these dark times. Reflecting positively on the pandemic and lockdowns over the past year, Amy says; ‘On a personal level, the pandemic/lockdown has given me more flexibility and time to invest in growing the business. My husband has been able to come on board in the evenings and invest his time in areas of the business that beforehand had been lacking the time they deserved, so that has helped massively.
Overall, I have found the last year to be really positive in terms of growth for the business. Consumers have had more time to spend researching and getting to know the values of the brands they choose to purchase from and the push to support local businesses has been so amazingly helpful.’
Despite the positive reflection on lockdown, the business has not gone without its challenges. Amy gave us a little insight into how she has dealt with running a sustainable business over the past 12 months.
‘The biggest challenge has been meeting the demand of products while keeping everything manufactured here in Ireland. Back in September, after I was featured in British Vogue, we had a huge volume of orders all of a sudden which caught us a little unprepared. Although difficult to manage at the time, this forced me into thinking about Kindred in a more long-term basis. I was able to source more seamstresses and have expand our team in order to keep things on track.
After overcoming these challenges, Amy is looking forward to more business ventures in the coming year, and is very excited about all the opportunities 2021 may have, “I am really looking forward to growing and expanding more from everything to our product offering, to our online presence and our ever-growing customer base. We highly value our customers and are so pleased that we have so many who return to repurchase from us, so we are excited to build more on that personal connection we want our customers to feel toward the brand. We have lots of ideas in the pipeline and look forward to sharing those throughout 2021.’