Making Their Own Rules – Nah Dublin


Posted 3 months ago in Design

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A look behind Nah, the mischievous skate-inspired homeware and apparel brand founded by Aran and Dylan Quinn

 

“As we grow, we want to stay fearless and just keep making stuff we love. We’re not interested in going the safe route. We’re fully doing us and having fun with it.”

“Our family’s incredibly close,” smiles Aran Quinn. “Dylan and I grew up skateboarding together, or we’d all jam and play music.” Brothers Aran and Dylan Quinn are the co-founders of the skate-inspired clothing and homeware brand Nah Dublin. Aran, an established animator and illustrator, is based in New York, while Dylan lives in Dublin. Starting a brand across continents was Dylan’s idea after returning home from travelling across Colombia with friends.

“Dylan called me up and was like, hey, how about you give me some of your drawings that we can put on t-shirts? Let’s sell them and see what happens! It all snowballed from there, really.”

From its inception, Nah was a family affair. Their 2019 launch video stars their cousin riding a motorbike through the distinctively Irish countryside. He’s sporting one of the brand’s tees which features a slightly bewildered-looking cartoon sun on the back. And that’s all he’s wearing – the gag of the video is that he’s naked from the waist down, cruising blissfully through the fields with his butt proudly on show.

As well as partial nudity, the video is soundtracked by a contemporary interpretation of an Irish traditional song – made in collaboration between Dylan, their other brother, Ryan, and their father Dave on the flute. It’s cheeky, humorous, and distinctly Irish, a fitting introduction to the brand.

Nah was borne out of the brothers’ desire to create something fully for themselves.

“Dylan’s worked for a lot of big companies, I’m over here working in Brooklyn for advertising companies. At the end of the day, the work you make is always the client’s baby. So with Nah, we were like, fuck it, let’s fully do us. It’s been a really cool experience starting something from the ground up in Ireland. It’s all been a bit of a laugh – it’s 100% fun and 100% for the love of it.”

 

Each iteration of the brand is a new surprise. They started with t-shirts and caps before launching hoodies, socks, tote bags, and a nature-inspired jigsaw puzzle. Every piece is emblazoned with Aran’s distinctive designs, his charming illustrations depicting floppy dancing flowers, funny-faced creatures, and seagulls smoking next to Dublin’s iconic Poolbeg Towers.

“There’s definitely a sense of playfulness to our designs,” notes Dylan. Next came skateboards adorned with Aran’s signature sprawling, irreverent style.

Aran happily notes that making a skateboard has been a dream of his since he was a child.

“It’s cool to go back to those ideas you had while you were young. It’s fun to feel like kids again, to make things purely for the joy of it.”

Next, they dipped their toes into ceramics, a venture which took plenty of trial and error. Nah’s smiley-face clay pots and jugs are sculpted, moulded and painted by hand in Portugal by Alexandre de Silva. While each piece of stoneware is unique, they all share Nah’s distinctive cheerful energy. Their latest foray into ceramics is an incense burner taking the form of a laid-back flower puffing smoke out of the stick of incense.

 

Aran shares that they’ve gotten rejected from grants due to their inability to stick to one thing, but they wouldn’t change it. The ever-evolving nature of their product offering feels authentic to the brand’s ethos of play and adventure, of trying something new and seeing where they end up.

Aran grins, “We’re just having fun and experimenting. We don’t see why we can’t do more than one thing. When seeing our stuff, we want people to think, this is playful, this is nice.”

Having lived in Brooklyn for 11 years, Aran’s designs feel irrevocably tied to his Irish identity.

“Now that I’m away, I really miss Ireland,” he admits. “We’re proud to be an Irish brand and want to create stuff that feels distinctly Irish. So many creatives have left Ireland, so now celebrating this part of our identity doesn’t feel corny – it feels true and meaningful.”

Despite the sentimentality, they’re careful to not take themselves too seriously. When reflecting on the nature of his designs, Aran says, “It’s like half taking the piss, and half in awe of Ireland and what it means to be Irish.” This attitude, a mix of pride, self-awareness and humour, feels distinctly Irish in itself.

They’re passionate about sustainable production, a fact they make clear from the start of our conversation. They found a Portuguese manufacturer through a recommendation and have used them since.

“We wanted to know where our products were made, whether they’re actually sustainable, whether their workers were getting paid fairly,” notes Aran. “These guys [making our clothes now] work with farmers in India who own their own land. They work in collaboration with Patagonia with very strict rules on ethics and sustainability. Even the cotton is made in a way so that the earth isn’t being completely torched in the process.”

Despite the mischievous nature of their designs, the ethics of their business is a topic they take seriously.

“Fashion is such a massive part of climate change, so we’re trying to make things that will last,” says Aran. Dylan nods, adding, “We definitely want to make as small a footprint as possible.”

The brothers aim to strike a balance between making high-quality products that are priced reasonably, although it’s not always easy.

“A lot of our target audience are skateboarders and they don’t usually have heaps of money to be spending on expensive garments,” says Dylan. “We’re trying to juggle between keeping it eco-friendly and ethical while also trying to keep it affordable.”

While they’re still learning the ropes of business, they’re proud of the items they make.

“People always tell us how nice the high-quality cotton feels to wear. It feels good on your skin when you put it on. And there’s a guilt-free feeling when you know it’s made fairly.”

Collaboration and inclusivity are at the heart of the brand and their website proudly lists the numerous creatives they have teamed up with on their pieces. Friends of Nah includes photographer Cáit Fahey, designer Rory Simms, and director Albert Hooi.

“It’s always so nice to collaborate with others, to branch out and get out of your world,” says Aran. “That’s what’s so great about Ireland – everyone’s so lovely and creative and happy to work with each other. The skater community is the same. Go to any skate park and you can see the love and sweat they put into it.”

They want to continue collaborating as the brand grows, and hope that in the future they can expand their reach by commissioning different creatives.

The last year has seen Nah Dublin firmly establish itself in the Irish creative scene. After a number of successful pop-ups in Dublin, the brothers set their sights internationally, with their products now stocked in stores in Barcelona, Lisbon, and Sydney. They are currently working on a line of bucket hats, which feels aptly timed for a return to festivals this summer.

Also on the cards is a collaboration with Hen’s Teeth on a set of three illustrated prints. They’re not short of ideas for new products, dreaming of moving into pants and establishing themselves as a “full-fledged clothing brand”. Mostly, however, they want to continue having fun with the brand.

“As we grow, we want to stay fearless and just keep making stuff we love,” says Aran. “We’re not interested in going the safe route. We’re fully doing us and having fun with it.”

@nahdublin

nahstore

Words: Kerry Mahony

Images: Cáit Fahey

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