A|Wear: Being bold
How sweet it is to see an Irish brand making an impact across the water. Open any glossy English magazine on any given week, and you're liable to see an item from Irish retail giant Alwear taking pride of place.
Pixie Lott is a big fan of the store, as is Gok Wan. And, let's face it, nothing bolsters a profile better than a celebrity endorsement.
That's not all, either. In a major coup, www.asos.com, arguably the biggest online retail success story of the past few years, will be selling the Alwear brand on its website in the coming weeks.
Alwear has five stores in the UK, but its own website is its biggest success story, equating now to almost 50 per cent of its overall sales, despite the fact that it is only in existence two years. "To be able to sell online affords you the ability to be in everyone's living room," says Alwear CEO, Annemarie Flood. "You can't have a shop in every town, but you can be in everyone's house -- that's the power of it."
The key to Alwear's success in Ireland, and now in Britain, is that it offers an unpretentious, trend-driven and inexpensive fashion fix, while its clothes maintain a boutique-like exclusivity.
Its buyers always interpret the season's trends very well, too, even offering a wearable option with the most difficult items to pull off -- such as, say, the jumpsuit.
For summer, Alwear has opted for the bold and bright. Its aptly named Eclectic Paradise range -- due in stores nationwide next week -- offers great holiday pieces including shift dresses, pretty playsuits and flowing maxis, some in 100 per cent silk. Many of the dresses look as if they could have come straight from a high-end designer's cruise collection.
With the addition of more high-end elements to the Alwear brand, such as the Precious label and The Attic designer initiative, Alwear has grown up a lot.
Annemarie says this has not been a conscious shift, but a result of cultural changes. "Younger people are more sophisticated," she says. "Our core customer is 18 to 35 -- we haven't changed that and we haven't gone out to change that, but I suppose now a lot of 18 year olds dress like 25 year olds, and, equally, 40 year olds dress like 30 year olds."
Acknowledging the challenges the downturn has created, Annemarie credits her team's optimism for the brand's continuing success. "We're a positive bunch," she says. "I suppose because you're challenged, you need to think differently, you have to do different things and you have to work harder to achieve results, and that's something we're not afraid of."
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREAS PETTERSSON
STYLING BY SINEAD KEENAN
WORDS BY ANDREA BYRNE
FASHION EDITED BY CONSTANCE HARRIS