Beth Haughton’s restaurant, Dockland, which she co-owns with her husband, Harold Lynch, was filled with colourful rails of clothing. It was the second day of her Bdluxed pop-up shop in Cork City.
“I love colour,” Haughton said, surveying a flotilla of chartreuse, fuchsia, turquoise, and peach separates. “I think people were scared of colour. For years and years, people only wore black or grey. I think it’s changing now because when you wear the right shade it can do everything for your skin.” There is no black or grey in sight. The darkest the palette becomes is midnight blue.
“The collection was built around the idea of separates,” she said. “I like the idea that people could wear it in lots of different ways, it’s something that is feminine but sexy and grown up at the same time using beautiful fabrics and colour.” The resulting line of multi-purpose, handmade silk separates prioritises the functionality that respects the fast pace of modern life. Everything is washable. The tops come in carefully considered permutations which can be worn in whichever way the wearer desires. “They’re pieces you can do a lot with and depend on your lifestyle.”
Bdluxed started four years ago with a trip to India. Haughton and her friend, Deirdre, travelled to Mumbai, India for over two weeks. She made contact with the Irish Trade Board in India upon arrival. They connected her with members of the Indian fashion industry who introduced them to markets and silk shops. They trawled souks to source fabrics and inspiration. They returned with the foundations of the brand.
The fabrication has changed over the four years. The first collection was produced in India. Production was then moved to Tunisia, to the same factories that work with Marc Jacobs and Burberry. Haughton described the process as “hands-on” but “fun”, collaborating with a group of hard-working women in the Tunisian desert. Resort 2019, the collection on show in Dockland, was made in China. “The collection is much more expensive to produce because I’m not mass-producing. Also, because I like colour, I’m not asking for four or five styles, I’m asking for thirteen or fourteen.”
Haughton earned her stripes at Camouflage, a Cork boutique, in the 1980s. She launched her standalone store, Beth, in Douglas Court Shopping Centre, a retail hub twenty minutes outside of the city centre which allowed her to develop a profile. She moved the boutique a stone’s throw away to East Village, also in Douglas, before taking the store to town. It closed in July 2009, preempting its demise in the wake of the economic downturn in Ireland.
The designs presented in Dockland were the first sample of resort 2019. They will eventually be sold in Olori, a small boutique on Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork City, and Nina, a shop in Barnes, outside London. For now, the operation is quite small but this doesn’t daunt Haughton who is intentionally controlling everything from production to selling herself. “I want to keep it to myself while I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.”
The customers who shopped at Beth are returning to support Haughton’s latest venture. They have been with Bdluxed since the start. “I think the difference between yesterday’s pop-up and the last one was that people coming in were focused on what they were looking for. I had previous customers who were returning because they wanted a certain style they like wearing but in a different colour.”
The other aspect of Bdluxed is a bespoke jewellery line. “Everything is handmade by me. Everything is a one-off piece because I like doing things that are different. They’re deliberately odd pairings.” She composes earrings and necklaces using Swarovski crystals and she works with a Parisian company, which collaborates with major Parisian houses, on the finishing touches for her pieces.
What’s next for Bdluxed? Haughton is hoping to get an agent in London to open the line to a new market. Following on from that, wholesale and e-commerce are on the cards. But the conclusion one can draw from her attitude towards the fashion industry is that she won’t succumb to the breakneck speed of the industry.
Juggling a successful restaurant and fledgling clothing line, one must ask if it’s difficult to manage? “No, I’m used to multitasking and I’m not afraid of hard work.”