Fashion... Cool for cats
Ten years ago, Ireland's boutique landscape was booming. But the recession well and truly put paid to our fashion excesses and to many businesses.
In the interim, those few that survived have become better, sharper, and more responsive than ever before.
One of my favourites is Samui in Cork.
Founded in 2001, by Clodagh Shorten, Samui has evolved over the years. Today, it is an emporium of 1980s cool. Think wearing your dad's old (but good) Crombie coat, an oversize sweater, jeans and tough-girl boots, or cool trainers.
Though that look is one of my favourites, Samui is way more than that. It is a lifestyle store catering to the discerning working woman, who doesn't want her labels recognised, or flashed on the outside.
"When we first opened, I wanted to do something different, bring my own identity," Clodagh tells me when we meet in Samui, which is on Drawbridge Street, in Cork.
"I started with many unknown brands, many little niche labels that no-one had heard of. Of course, this was before online and people being able to find unusual things more easily.
"We found them from walking around, doing a lot of research," she elaborates. "Paris is very important to me. The street style, the restaurants, watching people - I find it very inspirational. I source a lot there, as well as in London."
That is the beauty of Samui, the fact that you know its signature style, yet you can always be surprised.
Clodagh travels regularly to London and Paris, where she buys Peter Pilotto, Rick Owens, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, Sacai Luck, Acne, MSGM and Danielle Romeril. There is always that hit of truly directional fashion and beautiful clothing in among the day-cool styles and Stella McCartney for adidas.
"I am not about occasion wear. I don't do wedding outfits," Clodagh explains. "People do come in looking for outfits for weddings, but it isn't something I aim for.
"When I buy Peter Pilotto, for instance, I don't buy it as an occasion-wear label, but so that my customer has, say, a dress she can wear to an important business meeting, and then dress it up for the evening with high heels. Our customers have to be dressed well, as a lot of them are working women."
Samui is a beautiful, roomy store set over two floors and a mezzanine. The ground floor has jeans (J Brand, Paige), sweaters and T-shirts across all labels, active outerwear (Montcler, Yves Salomon) and quirky day pieces by No 21 and Parosh. Towards the back of the store and upstairs, you will find accessories and designers.
"Our customer is very aware," Clodagh believes.
"We have to keep adding new brands, be creative. You can't sit still."
Photography by Miki Barlok
Styling by Sarah Corcoran
Fashion edited by Constance Harris
Sunday Indo Life Magazine