We sat down with Irish designer Michelle Reynolds Di Salvo to get the inside story on her handmade mystical creations.
Artisan, couture and Irish. Three words that we love to hear at IDIDID. In 2019, Michelle Reynolds Di Salvo took a leap of faith and started her own business that has become a roaring success. Michelle fashions iconic headpieces, veils and jewellery that are inspired by Irish nature and mythology; namely the ancient story of Tír na nÓg or land of eternal youth. Fresh botanical designs, stunning craftsmanship and an ode to all things ethereal and romantic, Michelle’s success is testament to the good that can happen when you follow your heart and say ‘I do’ to your dreams. Ready to fall in love with Irish design? Let’s go!
How did you come to start Kinn Óir ?
I officially opened Kinn Óir in July 2019. I had been in the wedding industry part-time as a wedding planner and florist but it was while I was having my dream dress made by an atelier in 2016, that I began searching for a beautiful hair accessory for my wedding day. I had recently gone back to wire work and jewellery making, a hobby I had in my teenage years. I made some pieces for friends and family including beautiful bespoke wedding pieces. I flew to Italy to a trade fair to choose pearls and meet coral carvers, gathering the elements for my own piece.
My mum made her own wedding dress, veil, silk turban headpiece and cake. She also made my communion dress from fine lawn muslin and a Carrickmacross veil and headpiece. I grew up in a very creative house with an emphasis on practical skills as well as academic, so it was second nature to me. I could use a sewing machine at the age of 6 or 7 and was able to hand embroider some handkerchiefs.
When I wore my own headpiece for my wedding day, I absolutely loved it. Knowing it was made to the absolute highest standard, I remade it 3 times until I was happy with it!
After my wedding, I noticed companies reselling products from AliExpress and it made me realise that there was a gap in the market for luxury Irish handmade veils and headpieces. After making bespoke vines and combs for friends’ weddings, I threw myself into preparing my brand and developing my first collection – I saw all the work behind the scenes that comes with opening a business. I launched in 2019 and have been in business for 3 and a half years now!
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Having grown up with highly creative parents, watching my mum create beauty and magic in every art form and my dad creative in a more practical way, I can say that they influenced me a lot.
They inspired me to work hard and follow my dreams. My dad always told me stories of Irish mythology in the evenings which I loved. The name Kinn Óir came to me on the bus one day when I was going into work. Chinn is the Irish for head ( I spelt it with a K so as to help international customers and avoid problems the Italian brand “moschino” has with pronunciation!) and Óir meaning golden. It comes from the Irish legend of Niamh Chinn Óir and Óisin from Tír na nÓg.
My philosophy is eternity, and the wedding photos being immortalised forever with the bride and groom wanting to relive it over and over and reminiscing about the day. I wanted to create pieces that would become modern heirlooms and be treasured keepsakes.
Each collection is different. My ‘Stardust’ collection was inspired by my favourite poem by WB Yeats. I worked on designing it during the winter months. I released it at the end of January with 12 pieces like the 12 signs of the zodiac. My next collection called ‘In Bloom’, which I released 5 months later in June, took a completely different direction to what I had originally planned. I was meant to release it in March or April but due to the pandemic, I put it on pause.
Being only in the fledgling stage of a business, it was very hard to be hit with the pandemic. I had just left my day job before lockdown and for the first time, I was able to work from home. I walked around my local area taking in nature within the 2km range and got to really see the flowers and leaves. I had worked through every summer, never taking holidays between May and September because it was our busiest period in work, so I never had the chance to see summer blooms and really look at them. I decided to take my time with the collection and base it on Irish wildflowers.
I was also desperately homesick for my parents and granny and all the places I spent my happiest childhood memories as we are the only ones in Dublin so there is a hint of nostalgia with vintage style laces and point d’espirit tulle. The 15 pieces were received very well.
The 2021 EDEN collection was followed by relocation to county Galway and immersion in nature, especially the local forest.
My bespoke service is the most popular. I am able to work with brides from either what they have seen from my collections, inspiration from their wedding dress or their vision. By working on sketches and the photos they send me, I am able to give them a quote and work on their bespoke piece. I send regular photo and video updates so they can see their piece come to life. If it’s a veil I am working on, I send a swatch sample, then they can match it to their dress and give me the measurements so I can make it and send it.
I have had so many happy brides, but I only share their bespoke pieces once their wedding is over. I love to create something unique for them that they will treasure forever. Giving them the experience of designing it with me is extra special.
What is your favourite part about being a bridal designer?
Being part of a bride’s special day is amazing, but for me, my favourite part is getting to know the bride, building rapport with her and working together to help her vision come to life. The trust in my work, in me and in my hands is something I will never take for granted. In almost all of my 5-star reviews brides remember fondly the experience being as special as the piece itself. It’s an honour and a privilege that never fails to humble me.
What would be your advice to brides-to-be?
In general wedding planning terms I would say the 3 most important things are:
- Do a timeline for the morning of working back from the ceremony time with your photographer, makeup artist and hairdresser. Write it out or type it and allow extra time to enjoy the process without being rushed.
- Have a breakfast delivery rather than the smell of rashers and sausages getting on dresses and people’s hair. There are companies that deliver baskets with fruit, scones, croissants and juice. Make sure you have some for the hair and makeup too. They are often up at 4 or 5 am for travel time and setting up their kit before they even begin with the first person. Same applies for the photographer.
- Get a videographer. I cannot stress this enough; no bride ever regrets getting a good videographer. It is one of the most precious things to treasure and gains in value every year that goes by.
One of my lovely brides had most of her wedding photos lost on the day by an unfortunate mishap with the photographer. He only had a few on a second camera and people’s mobile phone photos. Had she had a videographer she could have made an album from video stills. My own wedding video was the best investment I made in my future memories. It was expensive but there is nothing material I own that is more important than it.
For advice about accessories, I would say wait until you get your dress as you may go for a different style to originally planned. There are also often beautiful details to pick up and use in the headpiece or earrings. I would also say that putting a designer dress worth several thousand with a piece from Aliexpress bought through a reseller can cheapen a look.
If a headpiece isn’t for you, then consider a pair of beautiful statement earrings. Have an idea of your hair and overall look and ask for advice if you are not sure about what options would work best. Also, don’t leave it until the last minute to get your accessories. For example, I book up around 10 months in advance.
Who would be your dream client?
I can honestly say I have already had my dream clients. The most amazing brides who have supported me and come back to me for Christmas gifts when I had fundraisers and who have recommended me to many others. I have had some high profile brides as well but I have to say that every bride who I have had, even the indecisive ones who are nervous, have all been amazing. I am truly blessed.
Sometimes I work with brides for a few months and make all their accessories for themselves and all their bridal party so it’s nice to build a relationship with those brides. I have received cards and gifts from some brides and been blown away by the support years after the wedding has passed.
What is your most popular product and do you have a personal favourite?
My most popular product is a crown and a vine from the bespoke service. From my collections the three most popular pieces are the Ríona tiara, the Orna headpiece and the darling buds of May.
My own personal favourite is the Grace headpiece from the Signature Collection. It is the one that takes the longest. It has 65-70 flowers and has a double band covered in satin. I make it in two colourways and it can be made in other colourways too as a bespoke order. It’s a beautiful statement piece that works with hair up or down and is surprisingly light and comfortable.
What makes Ireland a wonderful place to get married?
I think that despite the unpredictable weather, Ireland will always be a firm favourite with brides. There are so many beautiful country houses, quirky venues and talented wedding vendors. The pandemic meant that a lot of brides that had originally planned to travel abroad, had to rearrange their plans to get married locally. I think Ireland does hospitality very well and people want to have family and friends at their wedding above anything else.
How did Kinn Óir get its name?
The inspiration behind the brand was the name Kinn (Chinn) the Irish for head and Óir meaning golden from the infamous legend of Niamh Chinn Óir and Óisin who fell in love in Ireland and returned on her magical horse to the land of eternal youth under the sea, where they never grew old.
The philosophy is that your wedding day is eternal as it is immortalised forever in your treasured wedding photos, keepsakes and will be a day you return to and relive for years to come.
I consider it both an honour and privilege to create beautiful pieces that form part of your special day and to be enjoyed in photos, kept as treasured heirlooms for years to come.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to build on the success of Kinn Óir over the next few years while juggling upcoming motherhood. I have spent the past year building and renovating a new studio workshop which will allow me to take on someone next year to help with orders.
I have already made pieces for brides from Australia, Finland and America and Irish brides living home and abroad such as in the UAE or USA. I would like to continue to be able to serve these brides and expand to new markets and stockists while maintaining the exclusive handmade artisan essence of the brand.
For more information about Michelle’s beautiful products go to kinnoir.ie.