Luxury-lovers cast off austerity and splash cash on furs
Top furrier says business is booming despite economic woes
Ireland's cash rich are discreetly spending up to €14,000 on fur coats – with the country's top furrier selling as many as five each week.
Luxury fox, mink and sable furs as well as racoon, musquash and coney coats are selling better than ever at the 200-year-old Barnardo emporium on Dublin's Grafton Street.
And the family run business is shifting their most expensive pieces – mink coats that cost up to €14,000.
Well-heeled Irish women of all ages, from their 20s right up to their 90s, are still investing in furs.
Caroline Barnardo, who has run the business since the 1970s, says she laughs when people say there's no money in the country: "If you believe that, I will really believe you are a blonde," she smiles. "People have loads of money."
She explains: "Investors would have maybe five blocks of apartments, they are in Nama, but they are using the system. And that is wrong. [But] of course, they have the money."
And they are quietly spending it themselves?
"Yes. You go out to the airport and you can't get on a flight. Where is that money coming from? They are using the system. There are the unfortunates like the poor man [in Priory Hall] who took his own life, they are genuine people, but there are the others too."
She scoffs at the notion that Nama are keeping tabs on those now in hock to the State's bad bank.
"Absolute rubbish. The law is an ass. And all of those court cases are costing a fortune. But they have [the money]. And they know the system."
"The people I feel sorry for are the ones like the Priory Hall residents. They are the people who saved every penny, didn't go out for a pint, got their deposit together and bought an apartment and then these other people are living on their backs."
Ms Barnardo says that her custom hasn't waned despite Ireland's economic crash:
"It's there and they are buying better, more expensive items, which is better for us." Many female customers are in their 20s and 30s in good jobs and making money, she says.
"We have young girls coming in with a couple of hundred euro to buy a leather jacket. The coats are no-maintenance. The rain doesn't do them any harm. They are warm. Put a nice scarf on it in the evening and you are dressed to go out. It's a smart girl's investment.
"A woman in fur says to me: 'intelligence'. Because she knows how to spend her money wisely. If you look at a really nice mink, which is the Rolls Royce of fur, it's cheap because you have it for 20 or 30 years. Divide the price by 20. It's an investment and you can have it remodelled from €100 to keep up with fashion."
Asked how many she sells a week, she replies: "We have to sell at least five a week to survive." Customers who come once return for a lifetime, and she says the shop never uses endangered species.
"Why, when there is quality farmed fur? I am a farmer's daughter and the animals always came first in our family."
Flicking through a stack of books that document hundreds of their loyal customers, she describes how the shop takes in between 10 and 40 clients a day, six days a week.
"If I am the captain I have to be on the team. I have to be seen to be there every day. And I know all the customers on a personal basis. You have to be hands on."