All change: Carraig Donn
Other than department stores, there are very few stand-alone stores that you can go shopping in with your mother and be certain that not only will the two of you enjoy the experience, but also that you’ll both find something you like.
Appealing to a broad range of women of varying age groups, styles and sizes, Carraig Donn is one exception.
Traditionally, Carraig Donn was known as a bastion of Irish craft and indigenous wares, but, in being so, it relied on tourism for profitability, something not viable in hard times. Consequently, it redirected its focus to modern, woman-friendly fashion.
It’s a place where you won’t break the bank, and yet you inevitably come out with clothes that suggest you have spent four times as much — a great coup to have pulled off.
Undeniably, it’s still a work in progress. Its merchandising could improve, as could the stores’ overall layout, and I have no doubt that both will. Being an Irish brand is an increasingly important selling point, but the people at Carraig Donn realise that being an Irish brand in Ireland is not enough.
They have worked hard to give us desirable clothes — which have improved price-points and quality — and a variety of labels. The prices are now on a par with high-street prices; most dresses cost less than €100, many much less than that.
Carraig Donn has also set up its own fashion label, J’aime La Vie. It is aimed at a trend-conscious, youngish woman working off a limited budget, and it is sourced from Paris (similar to Dunnes sourcing Savida in Spain). For the full-figured woman, bigger sizes are stocked where possible.
Set up in the West of Ireland in the mid-Sixties, Carraig Donn’s origins are modest. The family business now boasts an impressive 20 stores nationwide. Earlier in the year, it was announced that the brand is set to expand its business abroad.
Carraig Donn has opted for two main fashion stories this season. In keeping with the Irish customer’s love of colour, the first is an array of statement-making, colourful prints, which have resonances of the Spanish labels Custo and Desigual. Secondly, in contrast, Carraig Donn has bought into the neutral trend. It has been done well, with styles that will slot easily into your wardrobe and work with things you already own: key pieces that build a look.
Given that it caters for such a large cross section, some will question the focus and identity of a store such as Carraig Donn — is it fashion? Is it crafts? — but somehow the combination works. Its continued success in an injured market is testament to that.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GERMAN COLLINS
STYLING BY BARBARA STACK
WORDS BY ANDREA BYRNE
FASHION EDITED BY CONSTANCE HARRIS