Ohh! By Gum owner Sharon Griffin speaks to Tina O’Rourke about her Irish Times award
Ohh! By Gum Boutique has just been announced as one of the Irish Times 12 best shops in all of Ireland – a considerable accolade for its owner, Sharon Griffin.
‘The award has had a very positive impact,’ Sharon said.
‘Loads of people from all over the country contacted me, called into the shop or messaged to congratulate us.
‘People I don’t recall meeting told me that they voted for the shop in the campaign – that was really nice, you know. It was amazing.’
Sharon’s charming personality and genuine interest in people and the environment are combined perfectly in Ohh! By Gum.
When it comes to explaining where the unique name for the shop comes from, Sharon smiles: ‘My maiden name is Gumley, and when I was in secondary school I used to sew and knit – I would make things for my friends – and I had a little label at the back of them that said “By Gum”.
‘But I got a lot of teasing about my name. “One day,” I said, “you are going to remember that name and then you are going to go, Ohh! By Gum” – so when I thought of the shop, straight away I decided that was what I would call it.’
Sharon’s passion for ethical clothing is evident in the variety and quality of the stock she sources. From the very beginning, she was adamant that she wanted to have a ‘positive shop, something that would contribute to the environment and be the way forward for people buying clothes both ethically and organically.
‘[We source] good labels that offer the consumer organic and fair-trade fabrics, where everything has been ethically made and the manufactures are audited so that everyone is working in a fair environment and paid fair wages.
‘The labels I stock are just perfect, they suit all of those criteria. I love the labels for different reasons – not just because of the fabrics but because of the stories behind the labels, how they came about, the people that you deal with.
‘It’s a lot more personal. I like the idea that I know who the people are – they are parents, husbands and wives, or they are a bunch of young, single people living in a city. They have an awareness of the bigger picture, and they love the feedback that we give them.’
Sharon’s holistic shopping vision also extends to the low-key friendly environment in Ohh! By Gum.
‘Customers can come in and just have a look and are not pressurised to buy. I like people to try maybe 10 things on in the dressing room – I always say, “Just pretend you are at home at the wardrobe trying things on – here you just have another opinion”.
‘It doesn’t matter if you don’t buy something, because the most important thing is to feel comfortable coming in and trying out new styles.
‘We also have a layaway system and there is a payment plan we can put into place. ‘It is a great way of saving for an occasion such as Christmas or going to a wedding.’
So what of the future?
Thoughtfully, Sharon replies, ‘I would like to grow and establish Ohh! By Gum as one of the top 10 ethical boutiques in Ireland – to be at the forefront of affordable, ethical fashion, and to one day produce our own affordable Irish ethical label.’