Making It Work: Outerwear brand Jack Murphy aims to make a lasting global impression
Jack Murphy Clothing, the Irish outerwear specialist, has roots dating back to the 1940s, and this is reflected in its policy of making sustainable clothing.
“We make clothes for people, not for hangers,” said Sarah Murphy, the company’s sales manager. Business post. “We are not in haute couture. We focus more on how the clothes feel and what they are for our customers.
The approach, which values durability and aims for long-lasting wear, has been a hallmark of Jack Murphy since its inception in post-WWII Dublin.
Jack Murphy himself, who was Sarah’s grandfather, started the business as a corset maker after serving as a radar controller in the Royal Air Force. He was known in Dublin for the quality of the clothes his company produced.
“When my grandfather was alive, he used to go to Clerys department stores and buy his pants,” Murphy explained. “One day he went to buy them and he was writing a check, and the guy behind the counter was totally shocked. He was like, ‘Are you really the real Jack Murphy?’
Sarah’s father, Michael, then took over the business and in the 1980s he decided to go into the production of outerwear rather than underwear.
“Army parka jackets became a big style in the late 1980s,” she said. “My dad used to buy in bulk and bring them here, make the adjustments and sell them.”
In today’s world of fast fashion and big giant brands, it’s harder for brands like Jack Murphy to carve out a place in the market. But the company has solidified its position over the past few years and now sells on its own website and through a host of retail outlets around the world.
The past few years, however, have not been without challenges for the Enterprise Ireland-backed company. Brexit was one of the main issues the company had to deal with.
“Before Brexit, the fear of what was to come meant that some of our customers would simply stop ordering,” Murphy said. “We really suffered in that regard, because it was probably two to three years of really reduced orders.”
As a result, the company decided to downsize its operations and began to outsource much of its production, along with other tasks like marketing.
“We made some really big changes,” Murphy said. “We took a look at our entire line, did a comprehensive review of everything, and started focusing on our bestsellers, the products that were going to take us into the next ten years.”
Murphy said the business is now much more nimble, a feature that has allowed it to adapt to the constraints of the pandemic and even benefit from the boom in online shopping.
“Some of our US customers haven’t had the same kind of issues with the shutdowns, and a lot of our other retailers have actually thrived online,” Murphy said.
The company is now trying to expand its operations in the United States.
“I would definitely see us expanding further into the North American market and further developing the brand in Ireland and Europe,” Murphy said. “It may sound arrogant, but I see us as a global brand, and that’s where we want to go.”