The Doyle Twins: Sustainable and Affordable Fashion
Over 30 million people around the world are registered on Depop; a ‘community-powered fashion ecosystem’ where users can buy and sell pre-loved clothing. 90% of these active users are under the age of 26, reflecting Generation Z’s interest in sustainable style and vintage fashion. Most Irish users will be familiar with The Doyle Twins, who pride themselves on being ‘sustainable as well as affordable’. In 2020, the account became one of the first verified Depop sellers in Ireland and has continued to grow in popularity with 39 thousand followers as of October 2021. Speaking with Isabel and Emily-Jane, Trinity Business Review gains insight into the story, success, and future of The Doyle Twins.
The Doyle Twins is managed by twins, Isabel and Emily-Jane, who became interested in vintage fashion in their teens. In 2018, the twins decided to clear out their wardrobe and sold some old items on their account. Within a few months, they found themselves regularly selling clothes on Depop and by 2019, the twins were buying with the ‘exclusive aim of promoting sustainable vintage fashion and selling for a profit on Depop’. It was initially the look of vintage clothes which sparked the twins’ interest in pre-loved fashion. However, as they became aware of the negative impact the fast-fashion industry is having on the environment, the twins committed to buying only second-hand clothes. Although they did not set out to build a business, Isabel and Emily-Jane soon recognised the business opportunity before them and began to consciously build their brand: The Doyle Twins.
When asked about the popularity of Depop amongst young adults and students, the twins attribute the growth of the platform to a few things. Firstly, an increased awareness of the adverse impact the fast-fashion industry is having on the environment. Secondly, Isabel comments that there has been ‘a societal shift towards second-hand and vintage clothing being embraced as trendier’. Although people may have veered away from wearing charity shop buys ten years ago, now it is considered ‘the epitome of cool’. Isabella Vrana is a big style icon for the twins, and people often joke that they dress like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (which they take as a compliment!). Thirdly, the Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged periods of lockdown have driven consumers towards online shopping platforms, especially Depop. Although these factors have contributed to the ‘natural development’ of the business, the key driver behind the success of The Doyle Twins is the team’s constant ambition and innovation.
Where They Are Now
The Doyle Twins is currently based between the twins’ family home in Rathmines and their student accommodation on campus (which is conveniently located just around the corner from the post office). As both twins are in final year, Isabel in law and business and Emily-Jane in physiotherapy, they ‘try not to let the work build up’ by spreading it out evenly across the week. The divvying up of tasks depends on how busy the twins are; this flexibility highlights the brilliant teamwork which exists between the pair. When Isabel is working, Emily-Jane can fill in; and when Emily-Jane is on placement, Isabel can step up.
In the start, they thrifted all their stock in Ireland. However, the restrictions to in-person shopping brought about last year forced the twins to alter their supply chain and now the business sources approximately 50% of its stock from the UK. The Doyle Twins has a structured system in place. All newly purchased and unlogged stock is stored in specific boxes on arrival. Most days the twins photograph new items together for the account. Once photographed and logged, these items are then moved to a separate box or rail. Once an item is sold, it is moved to the “to be posted” box before being sent off to its new wardrobe. Twice a week, one or both of the twins package and post the items of clothing. Usually, Isabel takes on the biweekly post office trips, whilst Emily-Jane manages the online activity of the business. However, the work often does not exceed an hour a day and the twins make sure to take the odd day off!
When asked about the impact Working From Home and Covid-19 has had on the business, the twins are of the view that the pandemic definitely had a positive impact on The Doyle Twins. Emily-Jane comments that the growth of the business can be directly related to people being forced to buy online as in-person retail closed. Nonetheless, when the economy began to re-open, the twins retained business and customers due to the strong brand they had established.
However, the business journey has not been without its challenges. Over summer 2021, the business faced ‘a period of tension’ when both twins moved out of home and away from the office. Emily-Jane was living full-time in Cavan and on placement in Monaghan; Isabel was living on the other side of the city working over 40 hours a week in an office job and ‘madly training’ for the national rowing championships (which her team won!). Despite the difficulties faced running the business during this period, the twins got through it and are now back together living on campus.
In light of the busy year ahead, the twins emphasise the importance of ‘having a routine’ and ‘good time-management’. When asked about the key factors to The Doyle Twins’ success, Isabel is of the view that their price point resonates strongly with buyers, especially students. They recognise that people may be dissuaded from buying sustainable fashion pieces by hefty price-tags, opting for cheaper and poor quality fast-fashion items. However, The Doyle Twins make sure to offer sustainable and high-quality clothing at a relatively low price point. Isabel also notes that their brand name, The Doyle Twins, is ‘very strong and quite recognisable’.
Plans for the Future
When asked about the future of the business, Isabel comments that they are ‘taking it one day at a time’. Emily-Jane is considering a career as a chartered physiotherapist, whilst Isabel may pursue a career as a solicitor. However, the twins have also discussed taking time out after college to focus on the business. The aim would be to organically scale the shop and bring the account as close as possible to larger sellers, based in the US and UK. When asked about other Depop accounts, Emily-Jane says that ‘the top sellers on Depop have an amazing community’ and frequently ask each other questions or give advice. The Depop market would appear to be relatively uncompetitive compared with other business environments. However, the twins have yet to see where the business takes them. Emily-Jane comments that the only thing they know for certain is that they cannot predict what the future has in store. Nonetheless, they are unlikely to see business slow down any time soon as sustainable and vintage style continues to stay in fashion.