Bairbre Power: can I help you? Professional customer service key as we return to shopping without guilt
At times I worry that I might sound like one of the Kardashians as I proffer a "Thank Queue" as I'm walking out of a store - even if the gaggle of assistants have totally ignored me going through the rails when they are busy having the bants. "He didn't, did he?".....
Believe me, I don't want sales assistants clucking around me. I know what I'm looking for - a good mooch around the rails - but customer service is something I feel strongly about and it's why the big stores with professional, well-trained staff do so well with their personal shopping services and calls to tell you "the dress has arrived".
In Manhattan recently, I couldn't get over how few staff were on the floor of certain department stores and you were left to your own devices, which came as a surprise in the home of the "Have a nice day"-style of retail. I have a keen dislike for over the top, faux retail friendliness, and wishing me "Happy Friday" pushes me over the edge, not to mention assistants starting a conversation by complimenting me on what I'm wearing. Really? Do you think women are going to fall for that now that we are back shopping more, and have left the wallet guilt at home?
I like the US concept of offering to "set up a dressing room for you" and then feed you in lots of options, and in different sizes, so you are not running in and out to the store half dressed. That's where the smaller boutiques can really make a difference compared to large stores obsessed with counting how many pieces you are bringing into the changing room, as opposed to finding out how you are faring behind the curtains.
This week, I was delighted to take on the role of a judge in the inaugural Xposé/Frockadvisor Awards - the XFA's 2016 - to salute the best of independent fashion retail around the country. We all have our favourite boutiques and mine is a second-hand where I can sell on the former loves in my closet to raise cash to go buy the next season's offerings. We will be checking out the independent boutiques in terms of Best Vintage, Best Accessories, Best Bridal, Best Online, Best Contemporary and Best Occasion. People can nominate their own - or their favourite - boutiques, and after the judging panel select the finalists, you can vote in the new year. The winners will be announced on May 26, as part of Fashion Independents Day. See tv3.ie/xfa for more information.
Liz Quin returns
"I design for modern women, age is not a factor," says Liz Quin, whose new AW15 is generating lots of interest among shoppers who now find themselves looking for a mix of coats, separates and party-wear.
You might recognise the name because Liz was formerly one half of the legendary Irish fashion brand Quin & Donnelly. Now designing on her own, Liz is true to her aesthetic of great contemporary tailoring. Her AW15 collection was designed with precision and a deft touch like the architectural shape and deep hemline on the black dress, above. I particularly liked the intricate features and attention to detail on the blue alpaca coat with its flared sleeve and belt detail which is an extension of the side panel. The tailored suit features a pretty cowl neck and the fitted jacket has very flattering quilted detail on the side, also echoed on the shaped basque waistline of the matching black pencil skirt. Other pieces include easy-to-wear dresses with a striking mono print, which is also available in a black silky organza floral top (€129) and black jersey top (€110) and there's a comfortable jacquard stretch trouser for a more casual look.
My favourite is the dress above, and she also used the same rose embossed fabric in an A-line skirt (€159).
The range is currently sold in Arnotts, Olive's Boutique in Drogheda, All Seasons Boutique in Newcastle West in Co Limerick, Design Loft at Powerscourt House, Enniskerry and from her own website, lizquin.com.
Congrats to Danielle
The very keenly contested fashion category in the 2015 Tatler Women of the Year awards went to Dublin-born, London-based designer Danielle Romeril whose fabulous clothes are available exclusively in Ireland at Clodagh Shorten's Samui Boutique in Drawbridge Street in Cork.
Photographs: GARY BELCHER;
Model: HANNAH GOFF;
Make-up: SARAH CULLEN; Hair: DYLAN BYRNE