Last year Bronwyn Connolly quit her comfortable, well-paying job to head off and travel the world. Nine months later, she came home with more than the usual memories and souvenirs.
Along the way she found the inspiration to explore her passion and realise a long-held dream of creating and designing her own clothing label. The result is Wear We Wander, a selection of hand-tailored, fairly-made clothing which is available in Stone Mad in Kinsale, and now online at www.wearwewander.com
Before all this happened, Bronwyn had done “the right thing” and joined the career conveyor belt.
“I spent a long time in fund-raising, and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. The dream was always there,” said the 31 year old, who’s from Ballinspittle.
“I was in the rat race, conforming and paying the mortgage, but I was always doodling and creating things in my head. I never thought I could do it though. When I first left, I still wondered about what I really wanted to do, but in the end it brought me back to my passion.
“Travelling on my own taught me that I could do anything and I realised you have to go for it, life is short”.
Bronwyn took off first for the United States of America, spending time on the mainland, including New York where a palm-reader warned her against not following her creativity.
After that she wound up in Hawaii, where she spent six weeks volunteering on a farm. “It was a very spiritual place. They were very much into figuring out what your dreams are and helping you to be inspired and to realise them. That’s where I came up with the concept for the clothes I wanted to create and the name of Wear We Wander”.
Her next steps led her back to Europe, then finally to a date with fate on the stunning Indonesian Island of Bali.
“I met an English woman who’s lived there for 12 years, Lisa Maree Barron, who mentored me for five weeks. She was amazing, and so generous with all her knowledge and experience. She taught me everything from pattern making to yardage, putting lace on, covering your buttons, and lots of small things that make a big difference. We spent a lot of time on tailoring and getting the fit just right”.
Bronwyn went back to Bali in April this year, threw all her savings into the venture, and finalised her first collection of clothing, inspired by Bali, Hawaii, and places in between.
“It’s kind of boho, but a little bit classy as well. This collection feels festival-y, it’s all about being light-hearted and free. The clothes have a lot of flow to them,” she said.
Just as importantly, the clothes are produced by women who are paid a fair wage for their work in comfortable working conditions.
“Lisa Maree put me in contact with a Balinese lady named Annie, who used to have her own factory before the Bali bombing in 2002.
“She’s a single mum, with three kids, and hires women from the village nearby to come and work in her house. They can bring their own kids with them so it’s family-friendly and they work in a safe, air-conditioned environment. The women tend to be older, and they have a bit of craic while they’re working.
“Annie puts a lot of effort into the brands that she likes, and she really likes the ethos of Wear We Wander. You can see it in the finish”.
You can see a lot of Bronwyn’s independent spirit in the clothes too. They’re light, soft and feminine, easy to wear and can be dressed up in a flash just by throwing on a pair of heels. Inspired by Bronwyn’s travels and the travellers she met, they’re for the gypsy in us, romantic, sensuous, and ready to take off at a moment’s notice.
Bronwyn uses Parisian cotton for her trousers, which gives them a gorgeous rich, slightly shimmery look and soft feel. A lot of the tops are inspired by Bali, structured but relaxed, and feature crinkle-rayon, a soft, easy to wear – and travel with – fabric that is light and stylish all at once. There’s a lot of Balinese lace as well.
According to Bronwyn, each piece has its own back-story. The butterfly dress is directly inspired by the palm-reader in New York, who was flanked by a rabble of butterflies, while the Aloha Bootie shorts make a knowing nod to the time she spent in Hawaii.
Wear We Wander is not just about Bronwyn’s dreams though. She is hoping to get others involved as well, and her Wander Bags are adorned by her artist sister Trisha’s work. Her hope is to build a collective of Irish artists with a similar ethic, especially that of being about creating long-standing, timeless pieces that reward the women who make them as much as the women who wear them.
“Wear We Wander is about buying classics that will stay in your wardrobe,” said Bronwyn.“
“I’m not interested in throw-away fashion, but good quality pieces. I’m aiming for women in their late 20s and 30s, who have an appreciation for real quality and have developed their own sense of style, rather than being slaves to fashion”.
A winter collection will soon be available as well, though Ramadan’s intervention has had an impact on this. “I won’t be going too far away from the designs that you see in the current collection” said Bronwyn. “But the fabrics will be heavier, and I’ll be using more winter colours like olive-green”.
She also hopes to expand into accessories and homewares, always with the idea of being ethically produced. For Bronwyn, Wear We Wander should be about a lifestyle in which you wear the world well.