Ladies who love fantastic flowers and fab fashion
With flowers on one side and clothes on the other, Greene's in Dublin's Monkstown is a little slice of girlie heaven
Fashion and flowers are close to the hearts of most women but, when you get both under the one roof, it's a very beguiling combination indeed. It only took two enterprising Monkstown women, Emer Greene and Judy Blennerhassett, to put their heads together and, lo and behold, you have Greene's Florists living happily under the one roof with the fashion label No2moro.
For the past 18 years, Emer and David Greene have been running their very popular florists in the heart of Monkstown village. Joe Bergin, who specialises in amazing flowers for weddings, has also been with them for seven years. Emer chuckled as she told me how she came into the business. "I'm a Northsider, originally from the Swords Road. I came to Monkstown when I met the beautiful David Greene, who is a horticulturist, and he introduced me to the world of flowers."
Emer was previously in the newspaper business, working for the Irish Press Group, which closed some 20 years ago. "Following the closure, I took a year out, as we had a small boy who was just starting school. After that I just really had to get on with it and find a career for myself. David and I had done a commercial floristry course for two years and we wanted to open our own business."
Greene's overlooks the heart of the village; it's in a row of very pretty shops whose exteriors carry a preservation order. "We could see the opportunity here in Monkstown, particularly when this premises became available. This was originally a very famous sweet shop called Tyndall's. People still come in and say they remember coming in here as children, so they have a great fondness for this shop. When it came on the market, we were very attracted by the overall style of the shop, so we bought the lease and we've been here ever since."
Having just emerged from a few very tough recessionary years, which effected everyone's businesses, I wondered whether people had returned to treating themselves to luxury purchases, such as flowers. "People are more cautious about what they spend on everything. They spend less, but they still like a bit of beauty in their lives. When the recession hit initially, everything just collapsed, people just weren't buying flowers - particularly men, and a lot of our customers are men. Saturday morning was a big time for men to buy flowers for the home and for their wives. That stopped when the recession hit because they didn't have the money anymore."
Greene's also lost out a lot with the collapse of the property market because people weren't selling houses, and doing them up in the same way. "We got a lot of business from that side of things in the good times. Dinner parties too were big. People would bring flowers, whereas now they will bring a plant. They still bring something but it's a smaller version of what we used to do. The good news, however, is that I think people have forgotten that now and the flower business is back in Monkstown. People are very loyal to us. If they like what you do, they will come back."
Like everything else in life, flower trends change, with people now liking a less structured look. Gone are the stiff arrangements of yore sitting on hall tables. "Vintage and 'country garden' is very in. People like a very natural country look, so everything is arranged in the hand. Wiring is a thing of the past."
Apparently, lillies are still very popular because they last. Roses and phlox, garden flowers and sunflowers are also big sellers.
Flowers of course, come into play in all of the major events in our lives, be they happy or sad, which is, of course, big business for florists. "People nowadays are more specific about what they want for funerals. Years ago people would come in and say they wanted a wreath to put on top of the coffin. Nowadays, they will come in and literally design it with you. They usually want the favourite flowers of the deceased, or flowers they like themselves, but they are as meticulous about funeral flowers as they are for weddings. It's very important for people that things are right and that is very important for us too."
Emer and Judy became friendly when they both had children at the same school. When the idea came about of incorporating fashion within Greene's, they had the shop very cleverly redesigned. Judy Blennerhassett too is a woman who knows what she is about, as she has considerable experience in the fashion industry and wholesales a number of well-known labels throughout the country. "I went to art college after school and then I went to work for Ib Jorgensen, which was over 30 years ago. I was there for three years, working in Fitzwilliam Square with his private clients and in his boutique in Molesworth Street, and I really learned a lot. I got this great love of fashion. I moved on then to work for Next in Grafton Street, where I was store manager, so I ended up in retail for a number of years.
"I'm in the wholesale business now, and I design for James Lakeland in London. I've been going to Italy with him for the past six or seven years. We visit all the factories, putting the collections together, and I wholesale the label in Ireland, as well as Sfizio, a very glamorous, upmarket Italian label. Six years ago I started my own label, No2moro, which was to be very high-quality basics, with little lace camisoles and the like. It has developed into a much wider collection. I am making now in Portugal and Turkey. It's all very wearable, such as little cardigans which I colour dye to match with trousers."
The price point of No2moro is very good and the look is classy, retailing from €12 up to €100, with lots of layeringfriendly lace pieces at about €30. The cotton trousers are around €60 and lovely twinsets are around €59.
Judy has passed on her love of fashion to her daughter, Romy, who is studying fashion design, as well as picking up all of her mum's knowledge of the industry. No2moro at Greene's is Judy's first retail outlet, and she and Romy are manning the shop themselves, so you can get good fashion advice from them as to what might suit you. "I love the diversity. If I don't stand here and listen to what people have to say, how are we going to move forward? People are telling me what they want and I can project that into next season. Their buying habits have changed a lot. They are dressing a lot more casually now. They have become a lot more sensible in what they buy, they want something different, unusual quirky things."