Upstairs on the Balcony at Showcase 2019 is where you’ll find 90 brands exhibiting with the help of their Local Enterprise Office or Leo. The balcony at the RDS is a terrific place to discover small creative businesses or new brands and the variety and quality of products will not fail to impress. From beautiful handmade beeswax candles to children’s fashion, ceramics to natural skincare products, there’s a wealth of choice for buyers to explore. Below we feature just some of the exciting brands to be found when you look up to the Leos on the Balcony at Showcase 2019.
Designer Nicole Jackson’s QBU label is a newcomer to the accessories scene and will appear at Showcase 2019 for the first time. QBU combines a strong style sensibility with an ethical ethos to result in statement bags that stand out against the competition. The bags are made in Scotland with European materials such as zero-impact Italian leathers and Irish linen linings, while the individual straps are handmade by Nicole in Galway in the West of Ireland.
“My main aspiration, when starting QBU, was to keep everything as local as possible while always considering the ethics of the materials used,” explains Nicole who founded the business in early 2018. “Transparency is also a key aspect of the QBU brand and all of the materials and processes are detailed on the brand’s website so customers know exactly what went into the making of their bag and where the materials come from. Each bag also comes with a little birth certificate so the customer knows when and where the bag was made, how many bags were in its batch and its name.” Nicole is looking forward to bringing her brand to Showcase for the first time in January with the Galway Leo and believes it will provide her with the opportunity to show her products to buyers and to develop her business network and brand.
Key features of QBU bags are the geometric shapes and the interchangeable straps in various colours which allow customers to mix and match the straps for a customisable look. “Practicality is very important to me, as is comfort and slow fashion,” says Nicole. “I have purposely designed my straps in various lengths and styles to suit different customers. Also with the variety of colours and styles available, customers can update their look by simply adding a new strap in a different colour or length.”
Showing for the first time in 2019 are Dorothy and Joseph Forsuh and their brand Connemara Handcrafted Glass - a range of kiln-formed products including wall art, sculptures, bowls, jewellery and hanging ornaments. Dorothy, Joseph, the two designers and their adminastrative assistant make all these items by hand at their manufacturing centre, a former local shopping centre, in Balla, Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Their colourful designs are inspired by the landscape of the West of Ireland and will “appeal to buyers who value heirloom pieces from Ireland which share individual stories of the ancient land”. Each piece they make is unique, with an array of themes and scenes fused into it.
The founders of Connemara Handcrafted Glass say that they have received much support from the Local Enterprise Offices in both Galway and Mayo and come to Showcase 2019 with the support of the Castlebar Leo. Theirs is a relatively young business - registered in 2016 and opening for business in November 2017.
“Joseph gets his inspiration from the Irish landscape and the flora and fauna of the West of Ireland,” says Dorothy. “But somehow, you will see coming through in some of his work his own early culture - he is very confident with his use of colour.” Dorothy herself has a deep love of archaeology and the work being presented at Showcase 2019 is influenced by Irish culture, historical sites and architecture.