Interview: Carolyn Moore - Tokiki.

Tokiki is a quirky independent Irish fashion label, that was set up in 2003. You can find Tokiki being sold everywhere, from the Stephen's Green Topshop, The Loft in Powerscourt Townhouse and also online. I have recently interviewed Carolyn Moore, the creator and backbone of Tokiki, to find out more about the label and what it has to offer to us fashionistas!

1. Where did you study and did you always want to be a fashion designer?

I did always want to be a designer, but I actually ended up studying visual communications in DIT, and from there I specialised in photography because fashion photography was my main passion. Then through working with photographers I realised I was actually more interested in the clothes we were working with, and after living in Melbourne for a year where there's a huge independent fashion scene, and then spending some time in Tokyo, I just wanted to bring a taste of what I had seen on my travels back to Dublin. When I got home to Dublin after 18 months away I was broke and had no job and I figured it was as good a time as any to go do a new course, so I did a one year pattern making course. I already knew what I wanted to make, I just needed to find out how!

2. When was Tokiki launched, and what does the name mean? - it's very interesting!

As soon as my course finished I registered my company, that was back in 2003, and I started selling at markets and then got  a little space in George's Street Arcade. I didn't want to start a label under my own name and at the time I started it I was still obsessed with Japanese street fashion, so I wanted something that referenced Tokyo, and "iki" was a word I came across which was a Japanese word to describe a particularly Japanese sense of style... the two went together perfectly and seemed to suit what I wanted to do, so voila, Tokiki was born! 

3. If you had to sum up Tokiki in 3 words, what would they be and why?

Girlish, playful and wearable. Wearability is like a dirty word in fashion but I want everything I make to be wearable and flattering.

4. Where can people buy your clothes and do you sell outside of Ireland?

Topshop in Stephen's Green is my main stockist, but Tokiki is also available from the Loft Market, Powerscourt, Counter Propaganda, Liffey Valley and Om Diva on Drury Street. And also on tokiki.com! I'm dying to sell outside of Ireland but unfortunately I don't have the production capacity at the moment, but I do free shipping to anywhere in the world from my online shop.

5. People want us to support Irish brands and companies, especially during the recession - do you feel megastores overshadow Irish companies sometimes and that's it's hard to get noticed?

Well I think it's a shame that it took a UK mega-store like Topshop to come to Dublin and open a space for local designers to sell, but I'm glad that they did because it's been an amazing opportunity for me! But I'm kind of surprised that some of the bigger Irish stores haven't followed their lead at this stage because there is definitely a market out there for Irish brands. But unfortunately with the way things are at the moment buying Irish isn't as important for people as buying cheap. And I can understand that to a point, because we're all feeling the pinch. But people are seriously obsessed with cheap clothes!! More than ever before, and I just wonder where the hell that's going to end. So the main problem I have in competing with the high-street is not being overshadowed by them, it's matching their price point, and I'm lucky to have a platform like Topshop which makes my clothes available to thousands and thousands of really style savvy customers, but I have to admit I am noticing it's harder and harder to get people to put a realistic value on a handmade, limited edition garment. Thanks to Pennys and Forever21 people's expectations change, and now people think a dress should cost €25 or €20 or €15!! That's a slippery slope as far as I'm concerned, and people like to pretend they don't know how a dress can be made for €15, but I think we all know that there's somebody being exploited in that process. So when you're trying to sell at a high-street price point and that price-point keeps getting lower and lower it's difficult to know... do I keep trying to match these insane prices? Do I find someone I can exploit to produce a cheaper product? Do I compromise on quality, do I compromise at the design stage? Do I really want to be involved in this race to the bottom??

6. Each piece is limited to only 50 per style, which makes it more special and limited edition, do you think the number will ever rise or will it always stay at 50?

Well I would hope that over the next few years I'm going to be able to expand what I'm doing. I'd like to go into factory production but I'd also like to go the ethical route so it'll be a slow process because it's something I want to get right. So yeah, the likelihood is that once it stops being handmade it'll also stop being limited to under 50 per style, but instead it might be 150 per style, which is still limited edition by high street standards. If you think of a shop like Topshop or Pennys or H&M doing a "limited edition" line you're talking maybe 10,000 units per style instead of 50,000 units. In my mind it's a bit of a joke to call that "limited edition".

7. What is different and special about Tokiki?

I hope the fact that you won't walk into a pub and see ten other girls in the same dress makes it stand out. I hope the fact that it's not as over-exposed as high-street ranges makes it something different. And I hope the fact that a high-street customer on a high-street budget is able to afford something that's been hand made in Ireland makes it special to them. 

8. What are the price ranges of your garments? 

Prices start from about €25 for tops and shrugs up to about €60 for dresses.

9. Who do you think are the most stylish women in showbiz at the moment and do they influence your designs?

I love celebrities that either don't use a stylist or aren't obviously styled... the actress Michelle Williams always makes me want everything she wears, I love Kirsten Dunst, and (I hate the word "quirky" but...) Zooey Deschanel has a quirky thing going on that definitely influences me. I love watching Gossip Girl for Blair's clothes. Well, I just love watching Gossip Girl full stop, but Blair's clothes are an added bonus. Maybe not so much in season's two and three but in season one she had this brilliant malevolent schoolgirl thing going on that was amazing. And for homegrown style I love the girls in Tallulah Does the Hula! 

10. Where do you get the inspiration from for your collections?

Inspiration come from everywhere, as a fashion designer you don't so much look at clothes as disect them, so everything you see gets filed away, a nice collar detail here, an interesting sleeve there. Most of all I'm inspired by vintage clothes, retro looking fabrics and pretty trims. My mood boards are usually pieced together using street style blogs, Japanese fashion magazines and vintage imagery, and there's usually one person or character who becomes your "girl" for any given collection. I kind of work backwards in that I often start with the fabrics and trims and then decide what to make out of them.

11. And finally, what can we see Tokiki bringing us for Spring/Summer 2011? We need some cheering up after this Winter!

I recently watched the movie Alphaville and it made me want to put huge white collars on everything! I've ordered in lots of pretty, vintage looking lace collars, and I think I will pretty much put them on everything! With bows, collars and bows are my favourite things, and there'll definitely be a retro feeling to the fabrics to compliment the collars. There'll be more lace because lace is still so popular, and more shift dress shapes because they're so easy to wear.

Thanks a million Carolyn, I'm sure my readers will love Tokiki!

Tokiki's Facebook: here!
Tokiki's Online Store: here!