One woman building her fashion empire with a little help from mum
IT ALL started in March 2020 for Monica Walsh when she launched the first collection of her brand, Cobblers Lane.
While most of us were spending lockdowns baking banana bread, holding online quizzes, and watching Joe Exotic, the Wexford native took a leap of faith from a sales rep job in agriculture to become a fashion designer, while living abroad in Manitoba, Canada.
Having studied fashion design part-time while working in Canada, Monica says she was ready to make her dreams a reality.
“I was frantically making things all the time when I would come home from work. I’d be designing when I was in work when I was probably supposed to be working.
“It just came to a point when I thought ‘I really just want to do this’, so I quit my job and the rest is history.”
Cobblers Lane is a one-woman show, with Monica dreaming up, designing, and creating everything in her Wexford-based studio.
With four collections under her belt, Monica says she finds inspiration in the beauty of the outdoors and her personal experiences and travels all over the world, from Ireland to Morocco to Positano and Australia.
Mother knows best
The Wexford designer credits her mother for nudging her to start bringing her creations to life, explaining that her creativity is what inspired Monica’s lifelong ambition to take up fashion design.
“My mother is really creative. Growing up, she made all of our communion dresses and outfits for special occasions. I’ve always seen someone sitting at a machine making something from nothing, so I was just always really interested in it.
“It got to a stage where I would design things and my mam would make them.”
The crafty creative says she still runs every decision by her mother, who has become a vital part of the design process for Monica.
Though only in business a short time, Monica has already made great strides in the industry, amassing close to 10,000 followers on Instagram and receiving high commendation at the Irish Made Awards.
“I think the Irish Made Awards was a real moment where I felt that people are taking me seriously and I belong here. That was one of my proudest moments,'” Monica says.
Though it’s a more personal moment that Monica says has brought her the most joy and pride so far.
“Recently I went to an event and there was someone wearing one of my dresses. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went up to her and told her I made her dress. It was the most exciting thing to see someone out in public who you don’t know wearing something that you’ve made.”
A friend of the Earth
Monica says Cobblers Lane is a brand that prioritises the planet’s best interests. With a zero-waste policy and a focus on sustainable fabrics (organic cotton and linen blends), Monica’s values are woven throughout her clothing.
“I don’t tend to follow trends when I’m designing because I want something that someone can put in their wardrobe that they can wear today and in five years’ time they can still pull it out and wear it and not look like it’s dated,” she says.
“I love being able to go into my wardrobe and pick something out. There are often times I will pull something out and think ‘Oh, I’ve had this for 20 years’ and I’ll wear it. That’s why I would always encourage my customers not to irrationally go out and buy something from my website. I want them to really want it and get plenty of wear out of it.”
What’s in a name
Monica’s slow fashion brand has quickly built momentum. Her Earth-inspired and Earth-friendly garments have been worn by the likes of Rozanna Purcell, Emma Power, Amy Huberman, Marietta Dolan, and Una Healy, to name a few.
But if you were wondering about the name of the brand, you’re not alone. Cobblers Lane is named after a street in Wexford where Monica lives, although you won’t find it listed on the maps today. 100 years ago, it was known as Cobblers Lane, with the Wexford woman speculating that it may have been home to a cobbler during that time period.
Regardless, when she was dreaming of her future fashion brand from Manitoba, she wanted to pay homage to where she was from. And thus Cobblers Lane was back on the maps once more.