Occasional treats: Outfits for family celebrations
'Irish customers are very grounded. You can't pull the wool over their eyes," Anne Harrison, buying director for Carraig Donn, tells me. "Price is huge. You can take trends and all the rest, but price is everything right now."
And, right now, all that Irish women want to spend money on is a new outfit for a family occasion coming up.
"Occasion wear is the Holy Grail of the season," Anne says. "And there is that feel-good factor when you have something new. Women want to feel good when they're with their families at an important event."
Carraig Donn sees itself as a destination store mainly for the 40-plus woman, although they do plenty for younger women, too, buying collections such as Vila, Vero Moda and the excellent – both for price and fit – Rant & Rave jeans.
Carraig Donn's own range, J'aime la Vie, has become a recognised label in its own right. It is a price-conscious collection, constantly updated, that is designed to cater for the fashionable, smart-dressing occasions in customers' lives, at an affordable price; dresses average from €59-€69. Pala D'oro is their new Italian-designed, casual-wear range, with a comfort fit, also at a value price.
"Trends for spring/summer are that we are selling a lot of dresses, but there is a move to separates. Now the weather is getting better, people are buying vibrant colours – aqua, corals and pinks. But we have a lot of neutrals, too, because not everyone wants to wear bold colour. Lace is a big trend; Kate Middleton has been a great leader on that front. Jumpsuits have been great for us, too," Anne says.
Carraig Donn thinks of itself as a mini department store, doing clothing, jewellery, accessories and seasonal gift wear. "Gifts are still a big part of Carraig Donn's business," Anne says. "I often hear people say that it is very hard to leave without buying something. It's the nearest thing a lot of provincial towns have to a department store."
Both online and in-store, Carraig Donn carries several Irish brands – Peruzzi and Daisy May; as well as international ones, such as Cream, a Danish, easy-to-wear collection; St Martins; Paper Dolls; Interstar Modes; Kate & Pippa jeans. Voulez Vous is for the more mature customer and goes up to a size 18/20. Across the board, Carraig Donn aims to carry sizes 8-18.
In the last six years, Carraig Donn has grown from 20 stores to 32. They span the country, from Wexford to Tralee, the Aran Islands to the Jervis Centre, Dublin. Next stop, Thurles.
"We haven't stood still. Carraig Donn has updated and moved with Ireland," Anne says. "We've identified with real women. We are warm. We are very Irish. That's what our customer appreciates."
All clothes and accessories, unless otherwise stated, are available online at www.carraigdonn.com, or from Carraig Donn stores nationwide. For branch locations, or other information, tel: (098) 50329, or visit the website
Shoes stockist: Fitzpatricks Shoes, 76 Grafton St, D2, tel: (01) 677-2333, or see www.fitzpatricksshoes.com
Photography: Emily Quinn, see www.emilyquinn.com
Styling: Sinead Keenan, see www.sineadkeenan.com
Hair: by Michael Leong, see www.michaelleong.com
Make-up: Paula Callan for CallanBerry, email email@example.com
Model: Nikki Bonass at Morgan The Agency, see www.morgantheagency.com
Shot on location: at The Westin Dublin, Westmoreland St, D2, tel: (01) 645-1000, or see www.thewestindublin.com
Sunday Indo Life Magazine