From designing a jacket for Kourtney Kardashian’s baby to meeting up with A-list fashion designer Michael Bush, it has been a crazy year for Niamh McCarthy - and it’s not even the end of January
Co Armagh designer Niamh McCarthy can add a Kardashian to her client list after she was commissioned to design a bespoke jacket for Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker’s new baby last September. Rocky Thirteen was born on November 1.
Announcing the news on New Year’s Eve, Niamh’s 2024 got off to a busy start to say the least.
“I was going to hold off until they posted a picture of the baby in the jacket but because the jacket is for a 12-18 month old baby I could have been waiting until Nov 2025 to share this news...and I was too excited to wait that length of time!
“Everyone was putting up their New Year’s Eve annual round up on Instagram and I couldn't hold it in any longer,” she laughs.
Having studied fashion and textiles at the University of Ulster, Niamh started her online embroidery business in 2019, working out of her parents’ garage.
The business, Niamh Designs, specialises in bespoke faux leather jackets which have proven particularly popular amongst brides.
“I’ve always loved colour and really crazy clothes, my mum is very fashionable, there’s no such thing as beige in her wardrobe and the same with my granny, the brighter the better which is where the interest in fashion comes from,” Niamh explains.
“Originally, when I started the business a local lady asked me if I could make a personalised kid’s leather jacket for her daughter and I did that and put it up on Instagram and received a really good response.
“Then from that, somebody else came to me and asked if I could do a leather jacket for her wedding and at the time, I couldn’t understand why but she sent me some pictures through from her wedding day and they were out of this world, absolutely beautiful and that’s when I knew that was the product I had been looking for.”
Since switching her focus to a niche market, Niamh and her team have gone on to become a market leader in the world of leather jacket embroidery and ship 90% of their products to the USA.
“I definitely wasn’t the first person to bring out leather jackets for weddings, but I’ve definitely taken a big chunk of the market now.”
The jacket designed for baby Rocky included the Barker surname embroidered across the back of the jacket along with a floral skull embellishment, which was ordered, designed, made and shipped off to Los Angeles in less than four days.
“I got the email on the Sunday but because the email came from LA there was a time difference, so I woke up on the Monday morning to the email and I was panicking because so much time had passed since it was sent
“I emailed back immediately and said, ‘yes absolutely I can do this’ and the client got back to me on Monday evening saying, ' ‘ok we will place the order but we need this in LA on Friday’.
“So that meant I literally had to get the jacket, design it and embroider it all on Tuesday, so that we could dispatch the jacket on Wednesday afternoon to make sure it was in LA for the Friday.”
Although Niamh and her team were successful in getting the jacket to LA for Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker’s Baby Shower it was a close call.
“It was very stressful, we actually made two jackets because I wasn’t happy with the first version.
“The one that went to LA was exceptional and I was really happy with it, I still have the 1st jacket and probably will keep it forever.” she said.
The Kardashian commission is the latest success in the entrepreneur’s evident winning streak. However she says her greatest achievement to date was being named Young Businesswoman of the Year at the Women in Business Awards in 2023.
“I went to the Women in Business Awards in 2018, just before I became self-employed. I remember being so amazed at the winner who won Young Businesswoman of the year. That was literally my biggest dream and when Pamela Ballentine called out my name in 2023 I genuinely got so emotional - it really was the greatest achievement of my life, and it was the first real bit of recognition Niamh Designs ever received.
“When you’re running a small business it’s so tough especially when you’re starting out, everything’s against you and just to receive that recognition was absolutely incredible.”
Niamh’s success has also led to her attracting the attention of designer Michael Bush, who is responsible for many of pop star Michael Jackson’s iconic costumes.
“Michael Bush was aware of my work, he had expressed an interest in it and he was in Ireland for a few days last week because he was on route to meet the team from MJ the musical which is coming to the West End.
“He reached out to me after he saw the jacket I did for Kourtney Kardashian and we met up last Monday and he gave me some great advice about breaking into the industry and I’m just so grateful for it,” Niamh continues.
“He’s probably the most inspirational person I’ve ever met, I’ve never related to anybody more in my life.
“Which sounds absolutely mad because he made jackets for Michael Jackson, but he said he made just over 1,100 jackets across his career, mostly for Michael Jackson but he also made some for Elizabeth Taylor and lots of other celebrities.
“We’ve made over 3,000 at this stage and although they’re nowhere near as detailed as Michael Bush’s, to actually meet him and hear his story has filled me with so much encouragement, I was so delighted to meet him.”
Safe to say the beginning of 2024 will be difficult for Niamh to top, however, never one to rest on her laurels, she has big plans for the rest of the year.
“It’s going to be a big year for us with Taylor Swift coming to Ireland in June. We always do lots of concert jackets, festival wear is going to be really big this year.