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‘I keep it close to home’ – the designer whose grá for Gaeilge helps her make T-shirts full of Irish pride

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Emilie Williams began making T-shirts in her bedroom two years ago and now she has her own studio and fashion line, Ditsy Bits

The Ditsy Bits Éire Tee, €30, modelled by Catriona Duyile, in red, and Emma Murphy, in pink. Stylist: Isabella Tierney. Photo: Zoe Ardiff

Ditsy Bits brand’s creator Emilie Williams. Photo: Zoe Ardiff

The Pub of Dream Tee, €30, from the Ditsy Bits Paddy’s Day collection. Model: Catriona Duyile. Stylist: Isabella Tierney. Photo: Zoe Ardiff

Do you enjoy a bit of sartorial patriotism but find that the “póg mo thóin” and “kiss me I’m Irish” T-shirts just don’t do it for you? Then look to Ditsy Bits — a company where Irish pride meets fashion.

“I started making T-shirts in my bedroom in January 2022,” the brand’s creator Emilie Williams says. “I painted them by hand using textile paint at first, so it was a very slow process. I would spend three hours per T-shirt. My first design was a face I drew with four eyes on it. I still love it.”

From a young age, Williams had been encouraged to express herself artistically. “My mam is a visual artist and sculptor so I picked up the love of painting from her. I’m so lucky I had that encouragement, otherwise I don’t know if I would have fallen into this business.”

Her illustrated T-shirts were popular among her customers, but it wasn’t until she began including the Irish language in her designs that the brand really began to gain traction.

Williams (23) had previously spent one year studying primary school teaching at DCU in Dublin. She decided teaching wasn’t for her, but she greatly enjoyed the Irish language that was part of the course.

Ditsy Bits brand’s creator Emilie Williams. Photo: Zoe Ardiff

“I started creating designs that included the Irish language. For my Valentine’s drop, I illustrated a little cherub holding a heart that read ‘Mé Féin’. That was a year and a half ago.”

The Dubliner consistently pushes herself to develop her independent brand by streamlining her work and growing her offering.

“I got a studio based in the city centre last July. It gave me the space to make screens [a tool used to print a design on fabric] by myself rather than hand paint everything, but it was still a really long process.”

She now works with a family-run printing business in Santry, north Dublin. “It was quite scary getting my own studio and outsourcing work, but it was too difficult working from home and being in the same environment constantly.”

With her focus taken off the nitty gritty details, Williams was free push her love of design and Gaeilge further.

“Other people seemed to really like me including Irish. I always try to have some aspect of Irish in my designs now,” she says.

The Pub of Dream Tee, €30, from the Ditsy Bits Paddy’s Day collection. Model: Catriona Duyile. Stylist: Isabella Tierney. Photo: Zoe Ardiff

Some of the Ditsy Bits T-shirts have featured pints of stout with the salutation “Sláinte” and Claddagh rings with “Grá” on them. Irish expats from Australia and England often buy the designs to wear a little piece of home.

“However big it goes, I want to keep parts of Ireland within the designs. My Patrick’s Day collection is based around a 2002 Irish stamp,” she says of the T-shirts pictured on this page. “I like keeping it close to home. That’s where it started and I don’t want it to go anywhere else. I always want my label to say ‘Made in Ireland’.”

The Ditsy Bits St Patrick’s Day collection is available now at ditsybits.com

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