Hi Katriona, thanks for joining me today. Firstly, can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I am Katriona Monaghan, I’m from Banbridge in Northern Ireland and I have been in the business for over 40 years! I’ve worked in the fashion industry from 13 years of age and it’s been my love and passion all my life. It would have to be as I work six days a week! I’m the mother of four fantastic kids, they all have drifted off to achieve their own aspirations and careers, and are very happy, but always make sure to refer to me as mum when in the shop, so that’s the way it’s always been! So, the lucky thing for me was that I was given the opportunity at a very young age to do exactly what I want and I really have enjoyed every moment of it.
Can you tell me about your background?
I was in a family business for many years. My father owned the business and I worked there from when I was around 13 years of age, during school holidays, summer holidays, anytime I could get into the shop I was there. As soon as I completed my exams at school, I went to work for a company called Anderson McAuley’s. I worked there through the height of the troubles and it was one of the biggest stores in Belfast, so was an amazing experience. But even when I had a day off, I would be working in my father’s store as I loved retail and the environment, so I’ve always been working about six days a week. Retail has always been a very important aspect of my life; I’m very much a people’s person and I love dressing people up and for them to be happy with what they have, and when customers return every season, it is the biggest compliment you can ever have in retail because they come back for my clothes and service. I’ve gotten to know grandmothers, mothers and daughters all returning, it’s been a fantastic rollercoaster.
So, would you advise others out there, that are possibly being told to go down a different career path, than the one they are wanting, to stick to their own goals and dreams?
Yes. I actually would have loved to study art as a lot of my friends did, as my kids. One of my children is now an architect and another one is a graphic designer, so the arty side has always been present. At the same time, I have always loved fashion and retail and was given the opportunity from a very young age to become a buyer and many people don’t have the chance to do that until they’ve worked their way up and have had some experience and then set out to go to exhibitions and showrooms to buy pieces for the next season. There was a lady I worked with many years ago, who gave me great grounding, I have to say because I was with her from when I was thirteen. I was with the family business for 21 years and then I decided to start out on my own and I shall be officially open on my own as KATRIONA, in Scarva Street, Banbridge for 20 years this September.
So, what's your favourite memory from your career so far?
Oh my gosh, I have so many. I think because I’ve so many aspects to my career as well. I’m a retailer first and foremost, I sell, I love selling and I love clothes and I love buying them! Another thing for me, that I’m very fortunate for is the travel involved in my career. People would say how much they would love to visit Paris, Milan and so on. I’m very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to travel there so many times throughout my career, and I’m fortunate they are work locations for me, and so they feel very home to home for me. I have a routine with each city, same restaurants, same hotels, same routes for walking about and enjoying the culture.
I remember being sent to London when I was 18, going off to do appointments and looking at classical ranges because these trends were very strong all the way through the 80s. A lot of the agents were male, so to see a young girl walking in with punky hair and DM boots - they didn’t take me very seriously at the start. But, then as time went on, they started to see me come back every season, to see and buy stock and I built up great relationships over the years, because they respected me for what I was doing in the business and trying to develop my profile. It was hard work, but it was all very good fun as well.
Do you have a favourite city that you enjoy going to?
Yes, my favourite city is Paris. I’ve been going from when I was a child and it’s my favourite. I have certain areas that I know like the back of my hand, I enjoy going to the same hotel were the staff even know me by now. I love going down my favourite streets and walking around.
How do you stay focused on your goals?
The fashion business is not for the faint-hearted, it is very much a commitment type career. It’s 24/7, 365 days a year and you have to drive yourself and the business. You have to come up with new ideas and the customer is always right and has to always be a priority, so you have to keep everything focused on that. You have to be there, rain, hail or shine, you have to be in a good mood when you walk through the door and you have to forget what’s happening in your life and put a complete focus in your work. Everybody is important, and it could be their wedding or any occasion, and that day it’s the most important thing to make sure that they are happy and that they are leaving KATRIONA happy and with a fabulous new outfit that they are delighted with.
Can you describe the working culture of KATRIONA?
The working culture is that we like to have a very happy environment for people to come in through our doors and that every customer is greeted with a smile. Ensuring the shop is in perfect condition, so that the products are clear for the customers to browse through and to ensure that every customers moment is fantastic here.
What's your favourite quote and why?
My favourite quote is definitely tomorrow is another day. It’s an extremely motivating one and is great for maintaining a positive mindset.
What advice do you have to any aspiring fashion entrepreneurs out there?
My advice would be to be aware the fashion industry has changed dramatically from when I started working in it 40 years ago. We had a big learning curve with covid-19, there are also many skills that you must ensure that you have. Fantastic customer service is one.