On Monday 12th March, Womenfolk and Blick Studios hosted The Time is Now Panel, led by Esther Mogada.
The aim of the evening's event was to discuss ways in which we can encourage and support young, female entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland.

We were joined by four speakers who each work within different sectors of the creative industries:


Karishma Kusurkar, is a multidisciplinary designer who runs a small business creating accessories, games, lifestyle products and illustration. She studied Foundation Art & Design in Belfast at Ulster University and then went on to complete her BA(Hons) in Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts at University of the Arts London. Karishma completed an internship for Topshop, which taught her design production within a commercial environment.


Karen Miano works within the music industry in Dublin, and now runs her own label which spurred from facilitation roles at music festivals. Throughout her early twenties, Karen worked three different jobs that had no relation to the music scene, but was approached by a customer in a retail job to take a role in stage management. She now hopes to work on connecting the two roles of Facilitator & Creator, and to inspire young people of colour to feel empowered to follow their creative spirits.

Aileen McEwen is a painter who currently works for the National Trust in collections management. She studied Fine Art: Painting/Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art spends her days talking about powerful women throughout history and gets to learn how representations these women form our understanding of female power.

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Geri Doherty works in costume design/styling for film and TV and has done from the age of nineteen. She is a founding member and producer of MELT Fashion Collective which aims to nurture the expression of self through fashion as an art form.

As part of The Time is Now, our panel examined Northern Ireland as a creative city. With its slower pace of life compared to many cities, it allows for more time to be creative. Belfast also has a much lower living cost compared to many other capital cities. This makes it easier to give up a non-creative day job and start a new business. The Internet and affordable travel mean we are still able to connect to other creative communities and bigger consumer markets around the world. We also learned that Lorraine Cunningham of Grainline Design and Sara O’Neill have created a hashtag #BuiltInBelfast, which they hope creatives will adopt for celebrating and promoting their work.


Each of these inspiring speakers taught us about how they got started within their industry and deliberated that there is no one right way to get into a creative career, especially in a field that still lacks a large amount of diversity. Our panel of differing ethnicities discussed being selected on merit rather than as a token representative to exhibit diversity. They also spoke of how female creatives are often wary of self-promotion and displaying a lack of integrity and may not always feel comfortable calling themselves entrepreneurs. For female creatives to start to resolve this difference within the field, our speakers suggested that women should remain authentic and honest; they shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes, ask for help or admit that they’re unsure how to carry out certain tasks. Yet, at the same time, women must also give themselves credit, be proud of their accomplishments and not be afraid to put themselves forward.

"Showcasing your design work" by Jessica Fok

I’ve always admired designers; the way they balance creativity with commercial viability, their meandering and colourful lives.  Design has always been a castle in the sky for me. I’m not a maker, at least not in the traditional sense. I knew I’d always be on the periphery of the industry, peeking in but never partaking. In the past few years, I’ve become a dyed-in-the-wool storyteller, narrating the passages of designers, by whatever medium is most fitting. 

My enjoyment of conversations with designers is what lead me to transition my self-entitled online portfolio into a website that would house these interviews as well as the projects I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with designers on. 

A fashion-led Belfast Design Week event produced by Jessica Fok at Culture Night Belfast 2016

A fashion-led Belfast Design Week event produced by Jessica Fok at Culture Night Belfast 2016

This transition into my blog Designher happened organically. At university I was a resident blogger for a fashion collective called Unify, an initiative managed and advocated for by altruistic designer David Henderson. Through the collective I made the acquaintance of a medley of talented clothing and accessory designers, interviewing them and telling their story on the Unify blog. After the collective’s dissolution I continued to keep up with many of the designers, even collaborating with many of them in a creative direction capacity for new campaigns and collections. Some of the works I have proudly created alongside talented photographer Ryan Richards include the Black & Silks shoot for Attune Womenswear and an in-studio photo album for milliner Marie Claire Ferguson.

After Unify ended, I felt there was an opportunity in Northern Ireland for a new fashion event to take place that would showcase and prioritise local talent so in 2016 I reached out to Belfast Design Week, which I felt, was the perfect vessel. With the help of a stream of wonderful people I created the fashion show DesignedBy. 

While I’ll call Designher a blog, I don’t want it to be restricted to just that. At the moment it’s a space for me to publish my conversations with designers and design enthusiasts, as well as viewpoint pieces on different strands of the industry. Often I work with designers to direct and create visual campaigns for new collections, new products or for their social media channels and I’ll be continuing to post these photo books on Designher. 

There is a plethora of reasons for why I’ve founded Designher. In a similar vein to Womenfolk, Designher is primarily intended to celebrate the work of women in design. I’ve had the luck of working alongside the women who co-founded Belfast Design Week and they continue to inspire me to mobilise and advocate for Northern Ireland’s design scene. Designher is testament to the good work of design communities and their unwavering dedication to creating and innovating their cities.   

I’m balancing Designher with my very full-on full-time job so this year my main goal is to have fun with the blog and fit in as many interviews as possible.  I have a couple of creative campaigns in the pipeline and all being well at the end of the year I might even try my hand at designing…

"Black & Silks" - a styled shoot for Attune Womenswear

"Black & Silks" - a styled shoot for Attune Womenswear

Showcasing Marie-Claire Millinery's work in studio

Showcasing Marie-Claire Millinery's work in studio

A short list of advice / ideas for designers on social media and how to make the most of it:

Less is more: I often find designers feel like they need to be on social media sites but that’s exhausting and wasteful. Use insights tools to heatmap where your audience/target customers are and select the channels that resonate the most with them. 

Invest in photography: In a world of double screening and relentless scrolling, imagery is often the only way to stand out. Understandably designers often view a photo session as a luxury, but the trick is to be efficient with your time. Create a vision, develop a curated photo brief that will give you an extensive suite of images to use for the next 3 – 6 months and above all – find a photographer who you can collaborate well with so they get a better picture of your needs/expectations. 

Speak authentically: We all know a social media account where we cringe over their posts because they sound too ‘salesy’. You need to give users a reason to interact with you, never mind buy from you. You may think you know your brand inside out but often people gloss over the ‘brand tone’ element. The more comfortable you are with your brand’s voice, the better your posts will be. Whether the tone mimics your own voice as an individual designer or you have to carry out a day-long workshop to unveil the character – once you find out your tone – whether it’s sassy or calm and collected – project it far and wide and you’ll find your tribe.