'For Irish women, the Holy Grail is to find that dress or top to wear to an occasion, be it a communion, a wedding or the races. People love an excuse to dress up," says Anne Harrison, buying director of Carraig Donn as we discuss the store's summer buys. "Irish women have a love affair with colour. We just love it - especially for occasions."
Carraig Donn originated in Westport, Co Mayo, where it is still based, though now it is a company of 35 stores, and growing. A family-owned business, its success is based upon it being a kind of niche mini department store with an operating principle of giving people an affordable lift.
"The core essence of Carraig Donn is to provide clothing and jewellery and accessories for an Irish woman, bearing in mind that price is always a factor," Anne explains. "We are not trend setters. We provide co-ordinated, fashion-following collections. That is what we find most women want - clothes that give a nod at the trends, that are comfortable and affordable."
As you can see from our pages today, the Carraig Donn offering is broad. A mix of Irish labels such as Peruzzi, Bellenisa and Daisy May complement their own labels which are J'aime la Vie, Carraig Donn's main women's label; Pala D'oro which is weekend wear. They also have Voulez Vous for the mature customer, and just launched to cater for younger women, Amore Vitae. Most come in sizes 8-16.
"We created our ranges because a lot of collections are not necessarily designed with Irish women in mind, says Anne. They don't know our needs. We listen to our customers and take what they say on board. We work hard on fit and length and it is what our customers tell us they love. We think of the little things that make a huge difference to women. It's all about comfort."
For the first time in ages, I see on the Carraig Donn floor lots of pretty, on-trend separates. Think pretty pleather biker jackets to be teamed with dusty pink cotton trousers and feminine summer tops.
"Separates are definitely where fashion is at. The 70s trend is very strong and we are finding jumpsuits are hugely popular. Dresses have not been as important as they were," Anne says of recent times. "But coming into summer you will always find people looking for more dresses."
Carraig Donn is a growing race-day- garb destination, as a complete look - from fascinator to dress and bag - can be got for around €100.
"Before, women couldn't justify spending on themselves when they had priorities elsewhere, Anne says. Now they feel more optimistic. They may not be spending a huge amount of money, but they can spend, say €29 or €39, and treat themselves without feeling bad. Buying a nice affordable little piece is a feel-good factor for us to enjoy."
Photography by Eilis McCormick
Styling by Sinead Keenan
Fashion edited by Constance Harris
Sunday Indo Life Magazine