I have massive respect for the style of Cork women. Apart from considering my own mother (who's from Bishopstown) the most stylish woman in Ireland, I have decades more evidence to the fact.
Childhood visits to Cork were often spent with my grandmother, Nance O'Sullivan, and her sister-in-law, 'auntie' Joan O'Callaghan, parading down Patrick Street to take in shopfronts and bump into friends. From that, I learned that no Cork woman went out the door without a smartly tailored jacket or coat, a beautiful brooch, and bright lipstick.
Even my other granny, Margaret Harris, never gave up on style, though she hated going out. She was from Roscommon, but readily assumed the Cork mantra of: "I wouldn't give him the satisfaction, boy."
So, Cork style and shops are something of an obsession with me. I always considered Cash & Co to be the most perfect-sized department store; not too big, not too small. Now that it is Brown Thomas Cork, I still do. Mahers is still the best sports shop in Ireland. Market Parade, Oliver Plunkett Street, Drawbridge Street and Coal Quay are my favourites for mooching around unusual stores of the antique jewellery, records or quirky variety.
My favourite Cork fashion stylist, Sarah Corcoran, who loves street style and art, cannot do a shoot unless it has a beauty and glamour quotient in it, as evidenced by our gorgeous fashion spread today. Sarah says she was inspired by "effortless opulence, boho, and perhaps a little bit of Gucci", and sourced most of her "bits and pieces" from diverse places: high-end stores such as Samui, one of Ireland's finest designer boutiques; Peacock & Ruby, an emporium of quirkiness; along with vintage gems such as Liberty & Jasmine in Skibbereen, and Irish online stores.
Sarah's shoot is an education in true fashion styling, where the outfit composition is as complex and exquisite as a painting. However, while chatting to Sarah, she reminded me of the precarious future of Cork's store-front retailers. Two years ago, I wrote about several wonderful independent stores in Market Parade. They are now gone.
High rates are the enemy of independent retailers and entrepreneurship. Any city that is to be an attraction needs to cultivate diversity, and not only in people's skin colour or sexual orientation. Unique businesses - be they vintage clothes, music, art, fashion, food - are what make a city memorable.
With retailers now facing stiff competition from online (non-rate-paying) stores, councils all over Ireland need to come up with creative incentives to keep unique traders on our streets - and fast. Otherwise, soon, even a magnificent city such as Cork may end up looking like any UK high street, as already evidenced if you take a stroll down Opera Lane.
Photography by Natalia Marzec
Styling by Sarah Corcoran
Fashion edited by Constance Harris