Maura's fancy dress business is tailor-made for more success
A Co Londonderry company has managed to grow its business in the downturn by tapping into the world of theatre and fancy dress.
Mirage Costumiers was set up by Maura Roulston in 2003 to sell fancy dress and theatrical costumes, made with skills passed down over three generations. "My grandmother was a tailoress, trained by staff from the House of Worth, a Haute Couture fashion house founded in the 1850s and she passed her skills to my mother, who in turn passed them to me," Maura said.
"I remember watching her make clothes when I was just six and when my sister got a little sewing machine as a present, that was it for me.
"Making things came so easy to me and I just loved it so much it seemed the natural thing for me to do. It is just in me to be artistic, anything to do with my hands and I can do it."
And it was Maura's attention to detail - as well as designing, cutting and stitching every piece, she also sews every button, sequin and bit of brocade, fronts the shop, selects all the stock and does the administrative work - which has seen the shop thrive from its early beginnings.
"In January 2000 I wanted to go into some kind of business using my sewing talents but I had made bridal gowns in the past and knew I didn't want to do that, nor did I want to make interiors because that would just bore me. My husband Cyril suggested I make costumes and right away I knew I would be happy doing that.
"For the next three years that's all I did. Practically day and night I made costumes and eventually I had 140 different outfits, enough to stock a shop. In 2003 we opened up a place in Market Street and except for the very first day when not one single person came in, I haven't stopped since.
"Two years after opening in Market Street, I had outgrown the shop and needed bigger premises so we moved to Main Street where I would deal with customers during the day.
"But in the evening I shut the door and went up to my workshop where I would stay sewing until the small hours.
"So many nights Cyril would call me and say 'do you know it's after midnight', because when I start making costumes I just lose myself and hours would have passed without me noticing.
"We moved into these premises in 2009, again because we needed more space and somewhere to house the 800 costumes we currently have along with the boxes and boxes of accessories that go with each outfit"
Forty years after she began, Maura has actually become a victim of her own success - the volume of her work and the demand for her costumes has led her to decide to retire.
She says: "The business is now at a stage where it has overtaken anything I initially anticipated but I am the kind of person who could never accept anything except excellence so because the demand for my costumes has grown to a level that I cannot keep up with I have decided to retire and sell up.
"I have put it on the market as a going concern but I am also selling the costumes off individually as well and if you take into consideration that some of them are worth hundreds of pounds, there might be a once-in-a-lifetime bargain for someone."