“Be a voice, not an echo. My mother has always told me to be true to myself, be strong, and not to follow the crowd, so when I started working for myself these qualities helped me form a good backbone.”
Traditionally, pole dancing has had a bit of a bad rep often being associated with sleazy clubs and the like. However, as with many things the tide is turning and not only is it a killer form of exercise but many women are turning to the sport to increase their confidence. While for the beginners, shorts and a t-shirt will suffice once you start to get into competition mode you need to up your game. Thankfully, we’ve the perfect costume designer on hand to walk you through it. GirlCrew Dublin member, Fionnuala Bourke describes herself as a “designer with a difference”, and it’s not hard to see why. Her designs are absolutely breathtaking, and what’s more, even those at the top of the sport say so, with one of her recent creations winning Best Costume at the World Pole Dance Championship. “I have always dreamed of working for myself but when I came out of college I felt totally lost and unsure of the future. I started designing for drag queens which really opened me up to whole new world of craziness.” This craziness led Fionnuala to the land of dance, and she was quickly bitten by the bug. “I began taking pole lessons from one of the best pole dancers in the world, Terri Fierce, who I also began designing outfits for and little did I know that this would quickly become my life.” Turning her hobby into a business was a natural progression, and as a fan of the sport she has the perfect insight into what is required from costumes. “My main customers are pole dancers, of which the sport is seeing a huge push and being included in the Olympics (possibly 2028 at this stage). I work with some of the biggest stars in this industry; I work very hard at both growing my business and breaking down the stereotypes of what people think pole dancing is.” Of course, adding a little glamour makes breaking down opinions that much easier so if you are looking to add a little bling to your wardrobe make sure you hit this lady up. To make sure you look your best while perfecting those pirouettes and attitudes, Fionnuala is also offering all GirlCrew members a 10% discount on her upcoming line which will be released soon. Right now her website is currently undergoing a revamp, but you can always check out her Etsy store here to get an idea of how talented this lady is.
1) What is the best thing about your role?
I get to do what I love every day, and no two days are the same. After years of working hard, to discover not only who I am as a person but who Fionnuala the designer is, it’s an amazing feeling to finally be comfortable and confident in my work. The pole dance community internationally have taken to my work so well that I have a three month waiting list, and back stage at competitions the girls can be heard saying to each other “are you wearing a Fi Bourke?”! I make to measure, so your dress size doesn’t really factor into it, it’s all about your measurements and making you feel comfortable and confident. In college I always dreamt of working for myself, but I never imagined I would be as busy as I am now.
2) What did you find most challenging about it?
I have just recently taken on my very first employee and that was extremely daunting, you are no longer just responsible for yourself but for another person also. My local enterprise office was great at helping me, and it was amazing to meet with them and hear the positive feedback. Working alone can leave you doubting yourself, and unsure that you are on the right track. There is a huge amount of balls to juggle when getting started, so one thing that always kept me up at night was the finances! Some people are great and keeping on top of their own accounts but I am not confident with numbers, so my next step was to get an accountant, leave them to the figures and I’ll stick to what I am good at. Stress is also another huge area I find challenging, but with my employee Michaela’s help we have managed to become a well oiled machine now. We have become so organised that we have our weeks planned roughly two months in advance, it’s the best way to be when you need to keep on top of so many orders.
3) What is your proudest work related achievement to date?
I have done some amazing things in my past, I was Ireland’s only ever contestant on Project Catwalk on Sky One, my work has appeared on The late Late show and Britain’s got talent, this week my work can be seen on stage in Vegas at The World Pole Expo… but my proudest achievement has to be where I am right now. I am still getting used to the word boss, let alone call myself and Girlboss, but it’s an amazing feeling finding the person who you click with, training them in …see them grow and grow in confidence and now Michaela is putting together outfits all by herself! Right now we are putting the finishing touches to the website, and I am designing a range of dresses, swimwear and embellished leotards all with my unique style and hopefully this collection will be my next big achievement.
4) What would be your one tip to others who want to get involved in this industry?
Well I can never have just one…practise, practise, practise! What I do isn’t really taught in college so I had to develop a lot of the techniques myself, I am lucky that I have had some amazing dancers to practise on and give me feedback. I use stretch fabrics and a specialised stretch sewing machine, and it’s only in the past year that I am 100% confident in my abilities. Grow a thick skin! My style isn’t to everyone’s taste, and not only that but I am involved in a sport that is constantly looked down on or thought of as sleazy so stay true to yourself and don’t let the negativity affect you.
5) What would be your motto in life, and in work?
Be a voice, not an echo. My mother has always told me to be true to myself, be strong, and not to follow the crowd, so when I started working for myself these qualities helped me form a good backbone. The pole dance community internationally have become such a huge part of my life and I want to break down the stereotype of what people think pole dancing is. I have been in situations where people have sniggered when I mentioned the word pole dancing, I know of people who have deleted me off social media because they think my work is somehow related to stripping. I have even had people look down at me because they think what I am doing isn’t really a business, or that it isn’t really fashion either because my style is (let’s face it) a little in your face. I spoke on the radio recently about pole dancing and the subject of children’s classes was raised, I very quickly saw this backlash of negativity. (Just to reiterate children’s pole classes are cool and fun, there is nothing sexy or grown up going on, the kids think they are superheroes it’s the adults who can’t get their heads around it) The comments online about it were disgusting, I was even asked “how can your mother be proud of you, doing what you do” it made me realise that there is still a long way to go to steer peoples understanding. It’s sad but I felt the need to raise this with my Local Enterprise Office when I met with them, I didn’t want my application to get so far to be told no we can’t help you, but they quickly calmed my fears and said don’t be silly you have the bones here of an excellent business. Life is too short to be boring, so don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail!! I like to consider myself a bit of a designer underdog, I can honestly see the day where my work will be worn on stage at the Olympics… it will probably be 2028 before Pole is even considered but I’ll be there in the front row smiling from ear to ear.
6) What do you like best about GirlCrew?
I don’t get to go out much so I haven’t been to many of the events but I like knowing I am not alone. If I’m working away in the studio I might see a funny post or meme pop up and it will make me laugh. It’s all about women building each other up which is great to see! I really like the entrepreneur group also, it’s a great place to exchange tips, and meet other like-minded Girlbosses.