Jack Murphy Clothing, the Irish outerwear specialist, has roots stretching back to the 1940s, and this is reflected in its policy of building clothes to last.
“We make clothes for people, not for hangers,” Sarah Murphy, the company’s head of sales, told the Business Post. “We’re not high fashion. We’re more focused on how the clothes feel and what they’re like for our customers to wear.”
The approach, which prizes durability and aims for long-lasting wear, has been a feature of Jack Murphy since it was established in Dublin after World War II.
Jack Murphy himself, who was Sarah’s grandfather, set up the business as a corset manufacturer after serving as a radar controller in the Royal Air Force. He was known around Dublin for the quality of the garments his firm produced.
“When my granddad was alive, he used to go into Clerys department stores and buy his slacks,” Murphy explained. “One day he went in to buy them and he was writing a cheque, and the guy behind the counter was totally shocked. He was like: ‘Are you actually the real Jack Murphy?’”
Sarah’s father, Michael, subsequently took over the business, and in the 1980s he decided to move into producing 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 back here, make the adjustments and sell them.”
In today’s world of fast fashion and giant high-street brands, it is harder for brands like Jack Murphy to carve out a place in the market. But the firm has consolidated its position over recent years, and now sells on its own website and through a slew of boutique retailers around the world.
The last few years, however, haven’t been without challenges for the Enterprise Ireland-backed business. Brexit was one of the major issues the firm had to face.
“Prior to Brexit, the fear of what was going to happen meant some of our customers just stopped ordering,” Murphy said. “We really suffered in that respect, because it was probably two to three years of really reduced orders.”
As a result, the company decided to slim back its operations and started outsourcing much of its production, as well as other duties like marketing.
“We made really big changes,” Murphy said. “We looked at our whole range, did a root-and-branch 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 company was now far more agile, a feature that allowed it to adapt to the constraints of the pandemic and even benefit from the rise of online shopping.
“Some of our US customers didn’t have the same kind of problems with closures, and many of our other retailers actually thrived online,” Murphy said.
The firm is now attempting to expand its US operations.
“I would see us definitely growing more into the North American market, and building the brand more in Ireland and Europe,” Murphy said. “It might sound cocky, but I see us as a global brand, and that’s where we want to go.”