Kilkenny Group: Ever on the up
Photography by Christian Ammann, Styling by Catherine Condell, words by andrea byrne, fashion edited by constance harris
There is no denying the fact that Irish retail has had a tough time recently.
But the ongoing growth of the Kilkenny stores has made the Kilkenny Group a paragon of optimism. In the past year, Kilkenny has opened a large premises in Shanagarry, Co Cork, while, in its eight existing stores, it has put increased emphasis on fashion, giving it the space and attention it deserves.
Ultimately, Kilkenny is working towards becoming a lifestyle store. Its aim is to become a design-driven destination store that is discerning, yet accessible; a store that's aimed squarely at the consumer who is fed up with high-street sameness.
Kilkenny's enthusiastic fashion buyer, Niamh Russell, a graduate of Limerick School of Art and Design's fashion-degree course, is, she says, "relishing the challenge".
Kilkenny prides itself on its loyalty to indigenous fashion. Now, more than ever, Irish designers need such loyalty. Currently, in the Dublin store, you'll find Quin & Donnelly, Fee G, Aideen Bodkin, Ella Boo, Erin Knitwear, Anne Behan, Ana Faye's leather handbags, and accessories stalwart, Orla Kiely.
"No one understands the Irish female body and the demands of the Irish woman's lifestyle better than the Irish designers themselves," says Niamh. She's right, too.
But Kilkenny does not intend to limit its look. There are many well-chosen international labels such as Paul & Joe Sister and Eva Kayan, as well as solid fashion brands including Cop-Copine, Stills and Rohan Chen.
This season in Kilkenny, you'll find fabulous dresses and good-quality chunky knits. Quin & Donnelly continues to do what it does best: workwear with a difference.
"My big thing is quality, but value also," explains Niamh, who once worked as a designer with Calvin Klein in New York, where she inherited her appreciation for good fabrics. "When we go buying to these shows, you see an awful lot of things that look pretty, and they look like high fashion, but they feel like tat. They could be made of acrylic and will be sure to pull away at the seams. It's really all about the quality. I cancelled a range recently -- I said: 'You're charging a certain price for something that looks great, but one wash and it's in rags.'"
Kilkenny promotes a look that is colourful, softly sophisticated and wearable. "There is no point in something looking and feeling gorgeous but that you can only wear to very special things," says Niamh, "We're about real lives."
One thing is for sure: there's plenty of choice this season at Kilkenny.