Cork Profile: Ann O'Driscoll, personal stylist and owner, L'Atelier Midleton
Tell us about your career progression to your role today:
My interest, passion, and flair for fashion can be traced back to my early childhood. As a teenager my love of fashion increased, and I was forever altering garments and amending outfits to create different looks. Shopping trips with my friends would not proceed unless I was present to advise and style them – I seemed to have an innate talent for knowing exactly what would suit their shapes, personalities, and lifestyles.
When my own children were small, I decided to build on my passion and expand my knowledge in a more formal way, so I undertook and successfully completed a course in style, shape, colour and make-up. I converted a room at home into a studio where I invited clients for colour, style, and make-up consultations. I also worked as a personal shopper, and wardrobe editing was another service on my books. Women travelled from all over for my help and advice and I had a very successful business for about seven years until the recession hit in 2007/8.
Owning my own boutique was always in the back of my mind but my young family was my priority. When my children became teenagers and more independent, I secured a position with Ballyseedy Home & Gardens where I was quickly promoted to buyer of gift, homewares, seasonal decorations and fashion accessories. This experience proved invaluable and during this time I learned so much, gaining great knowledge about many of the aspects involved in running a retail business.
So, the right time arrived for my family – we were all in the right headspace for me to venture into a new business. My three children are now young adults forging their own ways in the world, so I have time to focus on the boutique. I was getting frustrated trying to find the right types of clothes for myself and for my friends and felt that retailers were not considering women like us. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find what I wanted, and I knew my friends and colleagues were feeling exactly the same. I had to do something. And so L’Atelier Stylist & Boutique was born.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do?
The greatest joy for me is to see a customer come back through the door. Repeat business and customer loyalty mean everything to a small enterprise like L’Atelier. I love the connections we make with people and those moments when someone walks in and says that a friend had told them about us, or they had seen something on social media or read about us in a local newspaper. When customers let me help them, that is also very satisfying. I tend to be very honest with my customers and it takes courage to do so but I would rather lose a sale than let someone make a mistake. It’s about being genuine and ensuring complete customer satisfaction.
What motivates you?
The support I get from everyone around me, including my assistants, Roisin (my daughter), Ger our sales assistance and Roz Spencer, who is a visual merchandiser and has helped me to realise my vision for the shop. She is incredibly creative and has helped to create an authentic and welcoming space with vintage furniture, recycled lights, foliage, and other touches that make L’Atelier such an attractive retail experience. My husband Patrick and all my children give me tremendous support too and are a constant source of encouragement; it just wouldn’t be possible without their support.
What advice would you give your 15 year old self?
It's important to follow trends but only if the style suits your body, personality, and shape. Do not be pressurised into wearing the latest fashion pieces – embrace your own style. When you are comfortable and feel good in your own choice it will boost your confidence and endorse your individual personality.
If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing?
I have never actually thought of that as it was always the long-term plan to have my own boutique, however long it would take to achieve. Fashion is my passion.
What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?
I think it has to be owning and running L’Atelier. Having my own business and guiding its destiny, setting the standards, and nurturing relationships with customers, suppliers and fellow traders in Coach Horse Square feels like a great achievement – and an adventure!
Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?
I would have to say my mum. My interest, passion, and flair for fashion can be traced back to my early childhood. My mum has always been, and even in her nineties is still an extremely stylish, confident woman. She loved designing and making beautiful clothes for my sister and I, and I think that has had a lasting impression on me.
What is the life dream now?
To build on the business. As I am getting to know my customers, I love looking and sourcing the clothes for their needs. I want to travel to more trade shows around the world and source new and quirky stock over time as it is important to keep me and my customers interested with different styles.
How do you switch off?
I don’t really but I do love a good book at the beach when on holidays.
What is your favourite Cork memory?
My happy childhood upbringing on a family farm surrounded by a loving, safe environment provided by my mum and dad and my siblings.
What is your favourite place in Cork?
Midleton is a wonderful market town with a cluster of lovely boutiques and independently owned shops, a farmers’ market and of course, the distillery. L’Atelier is in Coach Horse Square, at the heart of the town, and it has a lovely atmosphere with planting and seating.
Do you have a favourite quote or motto?
My daughter tells me I am “blindly positive” but that’s not always a good thing…
When are you at your happiest?
Spending time with my family and friends.
What is your hidden talent?
It’s not a talent as such but if I were to be reincarnated, I would love to be an American country and western singer.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
I jumped out of a plane in my early twenties for charity and am now absolutely terrified of heights.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
My main aim for the business now is to inform people of my talents as a stylist. A free consultation can be booked (with absolutely no obligation to purchase) at any stage as this is the area in which I really love. I truly believe I have a talent for getting that item right for a customer, and it has been proved over and over again as customers come back looking for my help and advice.