'SINCE moving here, it has made a huge difference to our lives," says Gillian Leavy about relocating her lifestyle boutique, Eden, to slightly smaller, but much prettier premises on Dundalk's Clanbrassil Street.
Previously, Gillian used the beautiful building as a design studio and storage space. She and her husband, James, who is very instrumental in the business, spent the summer renovating the space, eventually moving in last October.
Gillan retained the original 19th-century architecture; the new shop is bright, spacious, visually beautiful and full of character. Gillian even has a gorgeous wooden and glass cabinet from her granny's chemist, which she now uses to house her selection of jewellery (she stocks French labels Virginia Monroe and 5 Octobre) and fancy dog collars (an animal lover, Gillian's boxer, Coco, paid a visit during our chat).
Also, what makes the move of premises even more agreeable for Gillian is that her husband works on the floor above her, photographing images for Eden's new website, which they hope will go live at the end of the month. Having seen a sneak preview, I can honestly say it's very special.
The website, much like the shop will be selling everything -- from cosmetics (Paul & Joe make-up) and candles (Miller Harris and Voluspa) to children's clothes (Eden stocks Antik Batik childrenswear exclusively in Ireland) and furniture (tablewear, glasswear, vintage clocks and Venetian mirrors among others things).
Clothes, however, are Gillian's main preoccupation. She started her career as a fashion designer, studying at the Grafton Academy and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin before going on to study costume in London. She had her own label, which was stocked in Harrods.
But, as any fashion designer will testify, the work is all-consuming and for Gillian motherhood was more important. However, she wasn't prepared to forsake her love of fashion altogether and decided to set up Eden, a lifestyle and fashion boutique for women aged 25-plus.
"Most of our key customers have a child or a couple of children, they're working, they want to wear quirky clothes, they want to feel good about themselves and they want to wear clothes that fit in with their lifestyle," Gillian explains.
She adds, "Our customers aren't going out as much. There is less money around, it has to really work for them in the wardrobe. They need to be able to wear it during the day and also, say, if they're going out with friends or their partner. It has to be useful."
Boutiques such as Eden often find niche labels first, but it is difficult to maintain exclusive rights when a department store can come in with a bigger order.
And while some of the labels Eden stocks are available in Arnotts and/or Brown Thomas, Gillian always manages to buy very differently from them. Also, given her training in design, she has a wonderful eye for quality clothes -- the cut, the fabric and the fit are of the utmost importance to her.
"That's part of who I am, and how I buy. People seem to appreciate it," says the mother of three young girls.
Eden's style signature is colourful, upbeat, feminine and fun, without being too girlie. She likes slightly retro, mildly funky labels -- such as Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, which she tells me is a best seller in Eden, particularly in the summer; Orla Kiely, who she has stocked from the very beginning; and Vivienne Westwood Anglomania, a label she praises for its versatility and its ability to flatter.
While she does tend to buy mainly dresses (she finds that most women are time-poor and therefore don't want to have to think too much about their outfit), Gillian has bought some beautiful tailoring from the Alice by Temperley label.
She is also very excited about new label Bolongaro Trevor, which is designed by the people who set up All Saints. It's similar to All Saints, only slightly older and more sophisticated -- think tailored jackets and chiffon and georgette dresses.
Despite the obvious pressures, Gillian is not losing her spirit, and is constantly looking for new ways to "keep things fresh and keep people interested".
Her efforts certainly aren't in vain, because as boutiques go, Eden is as nice a shopping experience as you'll get.
Photography: Maciej Pestka www.mpestka.com
Styling: Gillian Leavy & Siobhan Murray
Hair: Catherine McElligott, The Hair Shop, Dundalk
Make-up: Aoibhin Cronin, Mise Beauty, www.misebeauty.com
Model: Kristina Audickaite
Shot on location at Strandfield Flower Market & Cafe, Ballymascanlon, Dundalk, Co Louth Eden 1st Floor, 90 Clanbrassil Street, Dundalk, Co Louth Tel: (042) 9386739 or see www.edenireland.com
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm (closing for lunch from 1.30pm to 2.30pm daily)
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