Thursday 30 March 2017

Out with the old... says Arnotts buyer Rachael Armstrong

Faux-fur coat, €455, Bandits; floral shift dress, €390, Cacharel; tights, €14.95, Oroblu
Faux-fur coat, €455, Bandits; floral shift dress, €390, Cacharel; tights, €14.95, Oroblu
Boucle coat, €279, Ganni; mohair knit, €89.95, Selected Femme; skirt, €435, Tara Jarmon; boots, €200, Sorel; gloves, €60, Gala gloves; suede bag, €270, Coccinelle; tights, €14.95, Oroblu

After a time of uncertainty as to its future, Arnotts department store was bought by the Selfridges Group late last year. The buy for this autumn/winter season is the first one under the new ownership. The new backing seems to have led to the store redefining itself, and it's given rise to an exciting season of change. Go into Arnotts these days, and you'll see new labels hitting the main fashion floor on a weekly basis - Ganni; J Lindeberg; Cacharel; Hugo by Hugo Boss; Rodebjer; Bandits; IKKS; Whistles; Miss Selfridge; J Brand; and Armani Jeans.

"It's a time of change in a really, really positive way," concurs Rachael Armstrong, contemporary womenswear buyer at Arnotts. A year into the job, she is beginning to see the effects of her buying strategy. "Ganni is the biggest coup for us this season; we have it exclusively in Ireland," she says of the Scandinavian brand worn by Alexa Chung and Kendall Jenner. "Whistles just launched, and we feel it is going to bring a new customer into the store."

It's not that Arnotts is chasing a younger customer, Rachael says, but rather a more fashion-obsessed one - who shops not just for the big occasions of life, or those that require a uniform, but simply loves fashion and style. As such, the buying team are looking for brands that cover all aspects of a woman's lifestyle: work, going out, and casual wear.

"I think sometimes, with Arnotts, customers are particularly focused in how they shop. They come in specifically for occasion wear, or for work wear," Rachael says. "Whereas I think the addition of our new brands is going to see a customer who will come in on a Saturday and browse. She's looking for something for a weekend wardrobe, or something cool for work, not a suit."

Boucle coat, €279, Ganni; mohair knit, €89.95, Selected Femme; skirt, €435, Tara Jarmon; boots, €200, Sorel; gloves, €60, Gala gloves; suede bag, €270, Coccinelle; tights, €14.95, Oroblu
Boucle coat, €279, Ganni; mohair knit, €89.95, Selected Femme; skirt, €435, Tara Jarmon; boots, €200, Sorel; gloves, €60, Gala gloves; suede bag, €270, Coccinelle; tights, €14.95, Oroblu

As Rachael explains, this customer is into style, rather than just shopping for an occasion. This required a certain amount of clearing out of the old, with Orla Kiely and M Missoni being dropped. Increasingly, says Rachael, the store is getting away from more formal styles. Old favourites that perform strongly remain. Arnotts stocks a particularly good selection of Irish designers, including Caroline Kilkenny, Emma Manley, Aideen Bodkin and Natalie B Coleman.

"For us, this season, it's all about the fabrics," says Rachael of the autumn/winter buy. "There are a lot of really indulgent fabrics this season. A lot of velvet, houndstooth, tartan and floral print." Arnotts is particularly excited about its coats, she reflects, reeling off the various styles on offer: "The shearling coat, the faux-fur coat, the teddy-bear coat, the boucle coat, the belted coat."

For now, the possibilities for Ireland's oldest department store seem endless. "In the future," Rachael reflects, referring to the effect of the new ownership, "there will definitely be brands open to us that possibly wouldn't have been before."

Photography by Emily Quinn

Styling by Corina gaffey

Words by Liadan Hynes 

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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