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Meet Primark Home Designer Aisling

If you’ve never browsed our Homeware department, you’re in for a treat! Our growing homeware collection offers everything from bedding and storage to décor and home fragrance at purse-friendly prices. So you can truly give your entire house an on-trend post-lockdown makeover easily and affordably with Primark Home!

We want to give you a sneak peek behind the scenes at Primark, and introduce you to the people behind the products on our shelves. From retail and customer service to buying and design, we’ll be talking to some key members of the Primark team.

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This time around we’re chatting with Aisling O'Neill, one of our assistant homeware buyers. She's been working on the Primark Home team for over three years. Keep reading to find out more about her job at Primark, inspo sources and how lockdown has impacted her work style and the latest homeware trends.

"Working as a designer at Primark, no two days are the same" says Aisling. "One day I could be researching what the next big homeware trend will be, and the next day could be spent designing or editing print designs. The design team will spend a lot of time researching up-and-coming trends for the next season and deciding which of those trends we will cover. Once we’ve decided, the trends are briefed to the buying teams. We’ll work side by side with them to make sure the products and collections customer see in stores reflect those key trends – so you know we’ll always have the latest on-trend product available on the shelves! Just like with fashion, new home décor trends evolve from season to season. So Aisling’s team are key in making sure we’re bringing you the latest must-have pieces.

The COVID-19 lockdown meant that Aisling and her team, like many, had to quickly adapt to new ways of working. "Virtual meetings and check-ins have become normal now in our daily work lives – as for so many people. For my team, it was especially strange to present our upcoming trends to the wider Homeware team on video instead of in person. We can usually feel the buzz in the room! Adapting and changing the way we work during lockdown has shown us many ways we can improve future ways of working, so it’s great to have this learning process."

For home décor fans, Aisling has a dreamy day job. So we wanted to find out how she landed her design role. "I studied printed textile design in Dublin at the National College of Art & Design. I’ve discovered that one of the great advantages about the skills I learned there is just how adaptable and transferable they are, for different brands and departments. I guess that variety is what attracted me most to being a print designer. My career really reflects that: I’ve worked for both high-end & main street fashion brands, in both menswear and womenswear before starting my journey in homeware.

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Though her role means that her day-to-day is always changing, what does Aisling's average week look like? "Much of my job is supporting the selection, briefing and designing of prints that feature throughout our homeware range. It could be the print on anything from a duvet set to a reusable water bottle. We're a small team. But as you can imagine, we need a lot of different prints to cover our wide range of products.

I’ll work in three main ways to make sure we have a diverse choice of on-trend prints each season. One is meeting with print studios. They produce hundreds of key seasonal prints: most studios we meet with are in London, but they can be based all over the globe. Each one tends to have its own individual style and can bring something unique to our collections. I’ll also work closely with suppliers who have their own in-house design teams. We’re blessed to work with some really talented designers in our supply base: in many ways they're like an extension of our own team. Finally, of course, I love designing prints myself! There's absolutely nothing more satisfying than seeing your own design translated into real products that are being bought, used and loved by our customers all over the world."

You’ll spot the prints Aisling works on in stores, on lots of Homeware products from cushions and throws to candle holders and mugs. So with such a huge variety of product to cover, where does Aisling get her inspo? "I find travel hugely inspiring," she says. "As a homeware designer, I'm in a unique position in that I can really pull inspiration from the world around me. So whether I’m at a trade show, in a small boutique, a restaurant or hotel I’m constantly taking in my surroundings and on the lookout for color, print, material or product inspiration.

We’ve all spent way more time at home than we'd expected because of lockdown. So how has this affected the current homeware trends? "Trends that had started to peak before lockdown have really accelerated" says Aisling. "For example: pre-lockdown we were seeing a focus on wellbeing and the desire to create a relaxing home sanctuary, so you can escape the stresses of the world. It's become even more relevant since lockdown. We've all been spending much more time in our homes and having a zen-like space, with an emphasis on calming, natural colors & fabrics, is something we expect customers will continue to want in future."

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Working from home has become normal for so many. What are Aisling’s top hacks for a simple home office? "Invest in decorative storage solutions. It's especially key if your home office space is doubling up as your living space or kitchen table. It’s so important to be able to switch off after a day’s work, so invest in some natural woven storage baskets you can use to tidy away your notebooks, wires & cables to really help declutter your desk as well as your mind." What about revamping the rooms we’ve spent so long in? "If you’re looking for an easy & affordable way to update your home, introducing new cushions or investing in a new throw can drastically change the look of a room, whether a bedroom or living room" says Aisling. "Bringing the outdoors in is also a great way to bring a sense of calm to your home. There are lots of ways to do this, like adding an eye-catching vase with a couple of interesting flowers or a large statement plant for example. Another of my favorite ways to refresh your space is bringing in a new home fragrance or scented candle: it's a great way to change the mood in any room."

In her three years at Primark, Aisling has worked on lots of collections. Does she have a fave? "We get to work on so many collections and could be working for up to a year on one trend. That's why we get excited about the newest collection to drop in-store, because it’s something we’ve been working on for so long. It's definitely the case with our current Bohemian collection. I particularly love the rich teal safari printed duvet set: it looks and feels amazing! Plus it's made from 100% sustainable cotton." And what about our customers' favorites? "Bold palm prints seem to always do well. I think this really reflects our fun-loving customers who have the desire to express themselves through their homes."

As part of our long-term commitment to source 100% sustainable cotton, we’ve been developing more and more product collections to fit the bill. All the bedding sets in our Bohemian homeware collection are made from 100% sustainable cotton. We asked how our sustainability efforts impact Aisling and her team.

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"As a design team, sustainability and our impact on the environment is something we’re always aware of. We’ve been working with the buying teams to produce more products in line with our key sustainability initiatives. Sustainability has featured throughout our trends for many seasons now. And we make it part of our job to share any information or knowledge of any new materials or techniques we find out about with the wider teams, in case they could influence our initiatives."

You’ll see our Primark Cares labels in stores, indicating products throughout all departments that have been created in line with our sustainability initiatives. "The benefits of shopping sustainably are purely positive: for us, our planet and the animals we share it with. There won’t be a visible difference in the appearance of sustainably-made products – or a difference in quality. But customers will be able to buy with a clear conscience, knowing what they’re buying isn't having a negative impact on the environment" says Aisling.

Before it hits the shelves, Aisling shows us around the Bohemian collection she’s most recently been working on. But what it is about working at Primark that Aisling loves? "Primark as a business definitely focuses on its people. Since working here I’ve truly been able to accomplish my personal goals with the support of my team and line manager. Not only does it mean I've grown professionally, but it’s also empowered me to carve out my own unique style of working. We wrap it up by asking her if she has any tips for budding designers wanting to follow in her footsteps...? Perseverance and resilience are important: you have to be really driven to succeed as a designer, but of course passion and creativity are essential!"

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