Her Dirk And Drive: Deirde Cantwell
By Emma Blain
Thursday October 01 2009
Deirdre Cantwell’s outfits are modelled by friends, even girls from her hockey club, says Emma Blain
Quack and Dirk has been open for a few months. How are you enjoying running a new business in these difficult times?
I opened the shop in Fairview last February and it’s outdone all my expectations. My dad owned a mechanics business and my shop used to be his store. Now he’s retired, so he comes in and helps sometimes. He likes to tell the girls to wear their skirts longer. Sometimes I have to kick him out!
You are a designer but your background is unconventional.
I studied sports science in Limerick and then did dress-making classes in NCAD and with a teacher from the Grafton Academy. I was an accessories buyer in Sasha for two years and that’s where I got all my buying experience. I learned to sew when I was about nine when my mum taught me.
You featured girls from your hockey team in your fashion show and pictures of customers on your website; is the idea of portraying ‘real women’ in your clothes important to you?
All the girls who were models in my show were really good friends. They are all beautiful and not stick insects. I had a combination of the hockey girls and other friends modelling, all around a size 10-12. I have pictures on my website of customers wearing my clothes because I want to see my clothes on real people, to see how people wear the clothes in the cold and in the rain and not just when the sun is shining like in pictures. I think my customers are so stylish and on the ball, I’m putting something back for them and they love to see their pictures.
You sell vintage pieces as well as your own designs: where do you source the clothes?
I go all over Europe to buy for the shop. I go to Antwerp, Berlin, Poland, Italy, Paris and London. I’ll be on my holidays when I can stumble across a market or a shop and I’ll have my boyfriend carrying around bags like a mule! My mum has come on the last couple of trips with me, she calls it her ‘holidays’, even though last week we went on a trip where we left at 6am and returned at 11pm.
How has your family helped with your business?
My sister, who is an architect, helped me design the shop. Now that my dad is retired he helps out, but the guys who used to work for him in the mechanics shop around the corner still look out for me. My little brother was the DJ at the fashion show last week.
The main focus of the pieces that you sell in Quack and Dirk is individuality, but who do you look to for style inspiration?
I really looked up to my mum’s sense of style and I used to love playing dress-up with her clothes. Once she told me she gave away an amazing pair of boots that I had seen in a photograph. I was so mad with her! I never really looked up to any designer, I take inspiration from normal people.
- Emma Blain