Meet the chic Co Armagh ladies who always dress to impress
School principal Caroline Currie and Lauren Lindsay, who has started up an online boutique, talk to Stephanie Bell
Two women from Co Armagh are setting social media alight with their quirky style and love for fashion.
'I'm principal of a busy school but I want to show headteachers they don't need to be in a formal suit'
Caroline Currie (42), principal of Rathore School in Newry, lives in Portadown with her partner Brian Mooney (48), a retail and marketing consultant, her three dogs, kitten and pet hedgehog. She keeps her more than 6,000 Instagram followers riveted with style tips and daily pictures of her latest outfits.
She launched her Instagram page (@aprincipaloffashion) a year ago to try and create a better work-life balance.
As well as indulging her love of fashion she uses her platform to promote local shopping.
With her bright pink hair and preference for bold patterned clothing, she is also blazing a trail for school principals and is hoping to change the stereotypical image of stern heads dressed in boring business suits.
"I've always loved fashion," she says. "Even when I was a little girl, I just loved dressing up and putting outfits together. My mum says that I would have been all dressed up when all the other kids were out playing in the street in their scruffy clothes.
"I've always been a wee bit quirky and I love statement pieces and bright clothes and I probably was always a bit more flamboyant than the other kids.
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"I eventually grew into my own style and look. I embrace colour and I love bold prints and for me, fashion is all about being fun, vibrant and colourful."
It was during a health and wellbeing event at school just over a year ago that Caroline realised that she needed to address her work-life balance.
Spending most of her time working, she knew she needed a new focus outside school and decided to blog about her love of fashion.
She attended an 'Instagram for beginners' event in Belfast and started to post stories and pictures and was soon building up a loyal following, making new friends and connections along the way.
"My life was heavily focused around school and I love that - my heart is in education - but the event made me realise I needed something for me as well," she reveals.
"I am passionate about fashion and I wanted to do something I enjoyed - so I decided to start the blog.
"I went on my own to the Instagram event and everyone was 20 years younger than me. I started to post and the response and the connections I have made have amazed me.
"Headteachers get a lot of bad press about what they should look like and how they should behave and I want to change that.
"Our school is for children with learning difficulties and we are all about embracing diversity and celebrating our uniqueness.
"I would like to show a new generation of headteachers that they don't have to be in a formal suit, they can be themselves and do the job just as effectively."
Caroline says she is constantly mistaken for someone who works in hairdressing, beauty or fashion and is happy that she doesn't fit the mould of a stereotypical headteacher.
She says: "Just because I have pink hair and long nails and like leopard print doesn't mean I can't be a headteacher."
Her trademark pink hair has been a variety of colours over the years from pillar box red to purple and ice white. Her current preference for pink is something which she says her pupils love.
"I've been pink now for four years because there isn't another colour I like better and the kids love it," she says. "You can't intimidate anyone with pink hair."
Her Instagram page is all about her love for dressing up and she takes snaps every day of what she is wearing to work, the gym, events and during her leisure time.
She describes her style as an eclectic mix of fashion bargains, high street, pre-loved clothes from charity shops with some designer pieces.
"Most of my wardrobe is from Primark," she says. "I have everything from charity shop clothes to a Gucci bag and boots. I love searching online for bargains and I love to shop local.
"I have a few designer pieces I have saved up for and which have been given to me as gifts which I call my 'good pieces', although most of my clothes are cheap and cheerful.
"Last year I got a tripod and camera for Christmas and I keep it in the boot of my car at all times. During the day if I am out anywhere and there is a good backdrop I will stop and set up a picture and post it.
"I don't spend all my spare time shopping although every Friday when I finish work and leave school, I go to Primark and I call it my wellbeing time.
"I wouldn't buy clothes every week or even every month. I tend to buy as I need them, I am not excessive. There is a massive focus now on sustainable fashion as there are so many clothes making it to landfill - I am very conscious of that so I like to wear one piece a few different ways.
"I also like to recycle my clothes by giving them to charity and I buy pre-loved clothes from the charity shops.
"You might see me on Instagram in a £60 dress from Topshop teamed with a £5 charity shop jacket."
Caroline is thrilled to have built up such a big following on Instagram in such a short time.
Her new hobby has certainly helped with her work-life balance and many of her colleagues and the parents of her pupils enjoy following her daily posts.
"I know social media gets a lot of bad press but I have only had a positive experience and made great friends through it and found other people who are all very supportive," she says.
Caroline's style tips
1. Be you! Clothes can reflect and influence your mood so wear something you love and dress for you.
2. Shop your wardrobe. Don't be afraid to wear those classic pieces year after year. They never go out of style.
3. Mix it up. You can create some fabulous looks by wearing a mixture of bargain buys, high street looks and designer fashion.
4. Stay sustainable. Get the most from unwanted clothes by recycling at charity shops and purchasing some pre-loved bits while you're there. Fashion re-sales are also a great way to update your wardrobe while selling clothes you no longer wear.
5. Look for inspiration. Check out social media pages, fashion magazines or fashion websites for some fashion inspiration if you feel you're stuck in a style rut.
'Setting up my online boutique was about being able to have a good work/life balance with the children'
Lauren Lindsay (32) from Lurgan is married to Gareth (32), a civil engineer and is mum to Sebastian (4), Nathaniel (2) and Francesca (8 months). She works in administration at Craigavon Hospital and runs her own online ladies' fashion boutique, Style Rack, which has a Facebook page with more than 10,000 followers. It has driven her dream to one day become a fashion designer.
Lauren started Style Rack with just 10 items and, thanks to traffic driven to her site through her busy Facebook page, now offers a full range of more than 200 tops, dresses, skirts and accessories.
Lauren, who is currently on maternity leave, devotes every spare hour to her business.
"I've always loved fashion and had the idea to design my own clothing range but I'm not good at drawing," she admits.
"I actually studied for a business and event management degree at university but the fashion has always been there.
"In my teens I designed an outfit for a Northern Ireland fashion competition and came third.
"My dream is to make Style Rack global, run it full-time and have enough money to hire somebody to draw my designs for me and launch my own fashion range."
Lauren describes her own sense of personal style as quirky. She doesn't always follow trends but likes to mix up her look by teaming items which wouldn't necessarily be usually put together.
She says her own style influences the stock she chooses for her online shop although, mindful that everyone has their own style, she says there are many simple and classic items to choose from as well.
"I knew I wanted to do something in fashion so I just started to save - I was saving for about five years and working on a business plan," she reveals.
"I didn't have the money to run a shop so I decided on a website. I find that many boutiques can be quite expensive and I wanted Style Rack to be really affordable. I try to keep my prices as low as possible.
"I love unique pieces and things that are a wee bit different and I think that's reflected on the site.
"I go to trade events and also source stock online which is really hard to do. Every penny is put back into the business to grow the range of clothes that I can offer. I am constantly putting work into it. It's a 24-7 job and I work around my babies. When they are having a sleep, I try to get as much done as possible and then when they are in bed at night I will work on my orders and on my Facebook posts, trying to get word out there."
It is her active Style Rack account on Facebook with 10,500 followers which she believes is driving her customer base and, while she has a website (www.stylerack.co.uk), so far it has been mostly local people who have supported her business.
She has just started her own Instagram blog on which she hopes to post videos of new fashion pieces and blog on local fashion events she attends.
"I would really love to spread the word across the UK and eventually go global," Lauren says.
"That would be the dream - to build it up to that point and be able to give up my job and do it full-time. I love fashion and setting up the online boutique was about being able to have a good work/life balance with the kids, allowing me to be here for them and be able to attend all of their wee events."
To run her own business from home, work part-time in the hospital and look after three kids has taken great determination and Lauren says she is holding onto her dream of becoming a fashion designer.
"I hope one day when I am really profitable I will have the money to pay someone to draw my designs and get them into production," she says.
"I love the business - it is really hard work, however. I think you have to be driven but if it is your dream and something you love doing, then you don't mind doing it."
Lauren's style tips
1. Experiment with different textures and colours.
2. Step out of your comfort zone and buy that one-off piece you have had your eye on.
3. When wearing everyday classic essentials, mix them with one-off pieces or accessories to enhance the outfit.
4. If you love a designer, buy a basic essential such as a bag or shoes and then add them to high street outfits to create a more glamorous look.
5. Layer up over the cold months - cosy knits and Teddy coats are a must this winter.