Fashion with a soul

Waterford designer Bebhinn McGrath recently left her job as a costume designer in film and TV to

release a new line of ethical clothing which she hopes will cut down on clothes waste.

So what is ethical fashion and why should we care about it? Well many of us are aware of the issue

of food waste across the world but clothes waste is just as big an issue. A recent study carried out by

Sainburys in the UK found that 235 million items of clothing are being sent to landfill this spring as

people clear out their wardrobes. However ethical fashion is not just about waste, it is also about

traceability, where are clothes come from and the conditions of those making them. These are

things that are important to Bebhinn McGrath who has just launched her very first clothing range

which uses all Irish materials and is made right here in Waterford.

“I have always been interested in where clothes come from” Bebhinn tells My Waterford. “I was a

big fan of shopping on the high street but then a few years ago I watched a documentary and it

changed my outlook on high street fashion, where our clothes come from and the effect it has on

the world, and the people who are making them.”

Bebhinn grew up in Waterford with a needle and thread in her hands as her mother was a dress

maker and she learned the skills from an early age. After school she decided to follow her dream and

she moved to London to study fashion design. However, as is often the case, the dream did not

match the reality and she never did fit in to the whole London fashion scene which she found to be

quite bitchy and competitive. “I felt that everyone was out to get everyone else” she says.

So she returned to Dublin to study costume design and has been working in that industry ever since.

“I was very lucky that my lecturer took me under her wing and the day I finished college she took me

on as her assistant. I have worked continuously in costume for the last 4 or 5 years in film and TV.

Probably the biggest known film I worked on was Brooklyn and then I worked on the TV series

Vikings. It’s a huge industry in Ireland, you wouldn’t believe it. There are always at least 5 or 6 big

productions going on in Dublin.”

While she enjoyed the costume design work and never found herself out of a job for very long, she

always longed to return to her original passion and the idea of starting her own ethical clothing line

was never too far from her mind.

“The work was there and I loved it but the hours that you work are just bonkers. You might be down

in a field in Wicklow at 5 in the morning and you mightn’t get home until 9 at night and then you

would have to be back down there the following morning. I think the kind of person that I am I had

always had it in my head that I wanted to do my own thing, so while I did love it, I wasn’t fully

committed. So when I finished Vikings last year I decided to give it a go.

So I moved back to Waterford and I actually worked on Redwater out in Dunmore with all the crew

that I would have worked with in Dublin so that was a big novelty. When I finished that I started into

my business plan and making samples and the website was launched in May.”

Bebhinn’s label is simply named after herself and the pieces are simple and elegant. She uses all Irish

materials including linen from Wexford and wool from Donegal.

“I wanted to keep everything Irish, when its available here why not use it? I love Irish linen and it’s a

dying trade. It used to be so huge in Ireland and now there are only 2 mills left. I use Emblem

weavers in Wexford and there is another one in Bambridge in Co Down. The wool I use comes from

Donegal. So to have the possibility of using Irish fabric I jumped at the chance.

People have different interests and I know that sustainable, ethical fashion is very on trend at the

moment and people are becoming more and more aware of where their clothes come from. Even

many of the high street shops like H&M and Zara, in the last 6 months are releasing the names of the

factories they use and there are regular factory checks.”

To try and cut down on clothes waste Bebhinn’s designs use timeless silhouettes and the purist of

fabrics to create lasting wardrobe pieces.

“I tried to design the collection so that they are not trend driven pieces, they are classics that you

can keep for a few years and they will still be in fashion, or you can mix them with other pieces and

they are not going to date. The linen is such high quality also that the clothes are made to last. I have

grown up surrounded by dress making, mum was teaching me when I was young, then I studied it

for so many years and worked in workrooms designing costumes. So I would have a high skill set and

I use the best of machinery.

The clothes will last a lot longer than pieces you would buy on the high street. It is trying to get

people to move away from purchasing clothes that they only wear a few times. Clothes waste is

huge, there are landfills all over the world just full of clothes. A lot of people only wear things a few

times and it all ends up in dumps.”

In Ireland 10,945 tonnes of clothes are reused through sale in charity shops every year so it is

something that people are trending towards. But for now Bebhinn is leading the charge.

“I make all the stuff myself in the studios here in Waterford. It’s just a one woman team….for the


To find out more about Bebhinn’s design log on to her website or follow her on

social media - Instagram: bebhinnthelabel - Facebook : BÉBHÍNN or @bebhinnthelabel - Twitter:



Bébhínn McGrath