Chic niche boutiques streets ahead
It's busy, it's buzzy, and it's jam-packed full of quality goods. Go visit Drury Street, says Lucinda O'Sullivan
Drury Street, running parallel to Grafton Street, is rapidly becoming one of the capital's best niche boutique shopping areas.
Not only is this entire area a hotbed of hip restaurants, but Drury Street's red-bricked buildings are filled with a myriad colourful artisan-style businesses with enthusiastic entrepreneurial owners behind them – from an Asian market to ultra-cool interiors.
The area is dominated by the grand 18th-Century Powerscourt Townhouse, built by Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt, now a shopping centre, and it makes sense that it was decided in 1876 to build the South City Market – or George's Street Market and Arcade as it is now known – in close proximity to the 'big house'.
It was reputedly the first purpose-built shopping centre in Europe and it is an extraordinary turnaround that, having been built to encourage artisans to ply their trades, it is now reverting back to that ethos. I spoke to some of the traders on the street.
Having opened Cezanne Hair & Beauty salon in Drury Street in 1983, Derek Milner can probably lay claim to being first to recognise the street's potential. Derek was originally in the old Brown Thomas hairdressing salon and was hairdresser to the late society beauty Lady Miranda Iveagh, fashion designer Sybil Connolly, and visiting fashion icons Eleanor Lambert and Anna Wintour of Vogue magazine.
"It was all wholesale clothing when I moved in here. Now it is so trendy, it's wonderful. It always reminds me of London's Walton Street or Beauchamp Place," says Derek.
John Farrington Antique Jewellers has been in Drury Street for the last 25 years.
"When we first moved in it was pretty well Cezanne and ourselves. Each year we have seen the opening of new shops. The street has become a beautiful boutique street. People are seeking out individual shops that stock specialist items, and the tourist trail is now coming this way.
"We have all the new restaurants in Fade Street, and we have a lot of hair salons and that means a huge number of people. All the shop owners are investing in updating their shops. The whole area is building up into this lovely niche, but it's not just for a particular group of people, it's for everyone.
Across the road is the new Industry Home and Lifestyle Store, which is as cool as it gets. Vanessa MacInnes told me how she started.
"We were originally in Cow's Lane in Temple Bar, and after a couple of years we grew and moved down to Drury Street and my brother Marcus came on board," says Vanessa.
"We have the entire building, which we will be developing in time. We are selling unusual gifts, furniture, homewares. Everything is very well made. We have a good selection of vintage products, new products, and products made from recycled materials as well. All the materials are really beautiful, from the wools to the leather."
Chris Keegan is also new to the street with his uber-cool Kaph coffee chop.
"I had been researching doing an independent coffee shop and saw really interesting stuff going on in New York and in London," Chris says. "I decided to introduce it here by way of a sort of neighbourhood cafe in the city centre.
"I'm trying to do something very authentic, very neighbourhood. The staff are completely into their coffee and artisan bakers do our pastries – we have a big Paleo range.
"We use Has Bean 3FE coffee beans, which I think are the best roasters in Dublin."
Working up the street, you can indulge in the lovely Cocoa Atelier with some fab choc lollipops or macaroons (www.facebook.com/cocoaatelier) and pick up some amazing flowers at appassionata flowers (www.appasionata.ie).
At the other side of the Market Arcade is New Moon, which for 20 years has been selling an eclectic range of exotic gemstone jewellery.
Nearby is gorgeous bridal destination The Suite owned, by Sarisha and Tara Chetty.
"All of our dresses are from the US and our exclusive to us," Sarisha told me. Prices range from €1,500 to €5,500.
If you want to hire a hat for 'that wedding' or an evening gown, check out Kara Maher's Frock n Fabulous in the basement of Fitz garment alteration shop (www.alterations.ie) which also does formal suit rental and dry cleaning. Kara started Frock n Fabulous two years ago, renting out hats, from her home. She moved into Drury Street just two weeks before Christmas.
"They are all high-end dresses – Valentino, Rachel Gilbert, Galliano, along with Irish designers such as Fiona Mangan, Aisling Ahern, Sarah McGahon, Jennifer Rothwell and Sarah O'Neill."
It costs from €120-€250 to hire dresses which would cost about €3,000 to buy. Hat rental is €40-€70."
After you've equipped yourself for the big day, pop into make-up artist Ken Boylan, who is also new to the street.
"We wanted somewhere central where we could launch our make-up range. Our friends Davey & Davey hairdressers (www.daveydavey.com), brothers Ian and Paul Davey, are next door so we do a lot of work with them."
You can have a one-on-one make-up lesson with Ken, which is great value at €60.
"We do 'HD brows' and 'Let's Go' lashes," says Ken, who previously worked for Blue Eriu and Armani Cosmetics. "We also wholesale our make-up from here to beauticians and pharmacists."
Ruth Ni Loinsigh's Om Diva is a five-floor emporium of fashion creativity. It reminds me of Biba in Kensington, London.
On the ground floor is a contemporary collection, whilst the basement is totally vintage. The first floor is given over to a young Irish designer collection. The next two floors are taken over by designers who have their studios there. It is a creative hub. Check out its Sip and Stitch Academy where you can take the 'Learn to Love your Machine', and other such day courses.
Also check out Dermot O'Connor's Printmaker Gallery, which has fabulous prints to set off any cool house or make the perfect wedding present.
Further up the street is the Drury Barber Shop, run by John Rutledge for 23 years. John has some great photos of the original market plans.
"They say Queen Victoria gave permission for the centre to be built 'to keep the Irish busy'," John laughs.
Next door is Salon 19, run by Dave and Claire Dalton for 28 years. Again, Dave says the buildings attracted him.
"The shops on this side of the street were all part of the original market development. Eight out of 10 people who walk in would be recommended by friends. There is definitely a much younger generation walking around now and Saturday is very busy and buzzy in the area. There are great plans by Dublin City Council this year – the area will be called either the Grafton Quarter or the Creative Quarter."
Next door is the Asia Market (www.asiamarket.ie) much loved by foodies. It started over 25 years ago in tiny premises at the other end of the street and expanded rapidly to become one of the largest retailers, wholesalers and distributors of Asian food products in Ireland.
Next door again is popular hair salon SitStill.
Finally to another longstanding member of the Drury Street community – Gail Kinsella's Jenny Vander vintage clothing shop. It is an amazing treasure trove of vintage clothes, jewellery and accessories. Assistant Marian gave me the tour.
"Gail has transformed it into what it is today with stock from the Fifties and older, with some beautiful pieces you might see in museums and ballgowns and cocktail dresses you could wear to weddings and events.
"These are worn in a more funky fashion, perhaps with jeans and T shirts, nowadays which is wonderful. It gives them a new lease of life and they are no longer just for the upper classes," Marian says.
I looked at a really chic little Mattli Sixties spaghetti-strap string classic dress with hand-beaded detail on the skirt – a snip at €380.
The world is your oyster in Drury Street, so let your imagination fly.