Thursday 29 September 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Ali Murray Founder of Alila Boutique

Ali Murray first opened Alila in late 2007 in the city of centre of Dublin. After 5 fantastic years there all business was moved online in 2012.  In August 2016 launched their brand new showroom so that bridesmaids can make appointments to come in and see all the bridesmaids collections including the fantastic Eliza & Ethan collection.  Ali has been born and raised in the fashion industry, her parents were fashion distributors in Ireland and her grandparents were manufacturers.  After completing a degree in International Business & Languages in DCU, Ireland Ali attended the Grafton Academy of Design in Dublin.  It was during this time that Ali opened Alila. Read her inspirational interview below:

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
Each day can vary! There are always plenty of jobs to be done from packing up all the orders nicely to go out that day, answering emails from panicked brides who have had a bridesmaids dress dilemma or girls looking for debs dresses (ordering cheap dresses online that look nothing like the online image, or alteration disasters) and need new bridesmaids dresses or debs dresses that week (we can help!). If there has been a big red carpet event we will do a special blog post on that reporting on all the style hits and misses.  If there is a new delivery in we get it photographed and up online asap! It’s also important to try the new stock on our standard mannequin to make sure that the fit is a good fit so that when you buy online you can confidently order the correct size with our help in the description.  There is such a variation from label to label with sizing now it can be crazy.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
My family has always been in the fashion industry, my grandparents were manufacturers and had their own label (Pallas knitwear) and then my parents were fashion distributors.  It was 2007 I was working in the family business and studying fashion design by night and the ideal location came up to open a boutique so I got to work - designing the interior of the boutique, and then the buying and planning. 

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
I opened Alila boutique in the city centre of Dublin in October in 2007 and 3 months later the recession really hit.  I managed to keep my business afloat throughout the recession and not get myself into any debt.  I started the online at the end of 2010 and moved all business then online in September 2012. We are 9 years in business this year and still going strong! I can’t believe it’s 9 years!

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Obviously keeping a business running and afloat throughout the recession was the biggest challenge.  Other challenges we face now online are making sure people are aware of the brand and the online store.  Some people still have a fear of online shopping so I always do my best to disspell that fear and make sure people are aware that really is an online boutique with a personal touch.

What are your future plans for the business?
By the end of 2016 we hope to have opened a brand new showroom here in Alila HQ so that with an appointment you can come and try on dresses before purchasing if you prefer.  We also hope to have introduced lots more new exclusive labels to Alila maintaining our mission to provide labels you won’t find easily elsewhere so you can be confident you are wearing something fabulous that you won’t see someone else in.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
That’s such a tough question! One thing I probably would have done differently was paint the interior of the boutique a different colour! The original Alila boutique on Drury Street was a pink palace, so pink in fact that it made dresses look a different colour than they actually were! That’s only a minor thing though. Any mistakes made were incredibly important lessons in business though so they were all worthwhile.  As tough as the recession was I learned a lot about the world of business and the important decisions that have to be made.  I’ve done the retail bricks and mortar side and the online and I’m very happy with how everything is going for Alila right now and excited for Alila’s future.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
Because anything is possible in the world we live in today.  Look at Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Sophia Amorusa (Founder of  They have reached fantastic levels in their careers, through hard work and determination and are an inspiration to all young women. They are taking the positions that in a past era would only have been taken up by men and showing us all that Girl Power isn’t just an idea, it’s a reality. When things got really tough during the recession and the idea of closing down was considered my mum pushed me through and encouraged me to keep pursuing my dream. I had put so much into Alila at that stage and Mum was a pillar of strength for me to dig deep, keep building my business and keep following my dreams.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Do your research, do your homework.  If you are going to open up a boutique what will make yours different to others already out there? A lot of times you see people opening up a new shop and just trying to stock labels that their neighbour already has. What is the point in that?  Decide who your customer is going to be, and be specific.  Have a plan in place and a good strong strategy. Look at what support is already out there being offered to you from your local government, you’d be surprised how much they can actually help. 

What or who inspires you in business and why?
There are the big hitters like Victoria Beckham and Sophia Amoruso who inspire me and then there are those close to home who have built up successful businesses through hard work and determination.  A good friend Courtney Smith is a fantastic fashion stylist based in Ireland whose business is just growing and growing.  I massively admire her work ethic and how well she has done and continues to do. My dad also has been a massive influence on me, having started working for him from the age of 12 when on school holidays and seeing how hard he worked and how he passed that work ethic on to me.  If there is one thing I have learnt over the years it is that to be successful you have to dig deep and not be afraid to get your hands dirty. There will always be those jobs you hate to do but they have to be done. It’s just part and parcel of running your own business.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“If you believe it, you can achieve it”

And then I also love the Coco Chanel quote - “A girl should be two things; classy and fabulous”

Ali     Instagram:

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