Friday 20 April 2018

Will goes back to the future...

New-look boutique offers a vintage look and lifestyle for the Noughties wild child, says Constance Harris

Fifties flower dress, €25, underskirt, model’s own, stockings, model’s own, stiletto shoes, €20. Dansette record player, €95. Erico telephone, €75
Fifties flower dress, €25, underskirt, model’s own, stockings, model’s own, stiletto shoes, €20. Dansette record player, €95. Erico telephone, €75
Fifties lace dress, €45, stockings, model’s own, peep-toe shoes €20. LCW Plywood Fifties chair by Charles & Ray Eames, €2,500. Telephone as before
Fifties blue prom dress, left, €45, stockings, model’s own, peep-toe shoes, €25. Wenge sideboard, €495. Original Harry Bertoia Fifties diamond wire chair, €895
Fifties cocktail dress, above, €75, stockings, model’s own, stiletto shoes, €20

Constance Harris

Vintage used to mean antique clothing of at least four decades in age, but in the late Nineties, hip stylists to the stars in Los Angeles decreed that vintage could be something that was only eight years old, as long as it was either designer, or cool.

Cool, of course, being decided by them.

Vintage has also been much touted as a hip ethical fashion solution. Which it can be, as it means clothing is recycled and not sent to land fill.

Irish people's relationship with vintage precedes any hip-ness but rather sprang from the necessity for cheap clothing. As a child growing up in Dublin in the Seventies, I remember vividly the Iveagh Market where you could get a good quality, dead man's suit (that's what the traders told you) for a fiver, or a cashmere coat for a tenner. This was just the cycle of life in operation.

Necessity and enterprise is how William Walsh, owner of Wild Child Originals, ended up being a vintage retailer.

"I opened my first shop in 1986 in London's Kensington Market," Will told me when we met this week to walk around the brand new incarnation of his store, Wild Child Originals, at 26 Drury Street.

As I do the maths, I realise Will was aged only 19 back then.

"I was a drummer in a band and we started selling clothes on the Portobello Market to pay for our rehearsal spaces."

Born and raised in Deansgrange, Dublin, such smarts were not uncommon in his family. His father, Raphael Walsh, was a furniture designer and manufacturer. His sister, Vivien, is a jewellery designer, who created the uber-discerning, designer boutique of the Eighties, Kamouflage, while his other sister, Aisling, is a well-known film and television director recently nominated for a Bafta for directing Wallander.

"I had been homesick for a long time, so I left London and came back in 1995 and opened Wild Child Originals on George's Street, when the street was particularly derelict," Will explained. It was also the year he met his future wife Deirdre Spratt, who works in the business as well.

The first Wild Child was a groovy store, a mixture of the known and the outlandish in clothing and objects from the recent past. As time went on, Will developed a discerning furniture business in retro and designer pieces, which he was selling from a premises elsewhere and through the internet.

"We traded in George's Street from 1995 till 2008, by which time I was close to closing completely. Rents and rates and insurances were all so high it was making it impossible to survive," Will told me.

"They still are. We are a city of one million people yet we pay the same as businesses in London with a population 10 times the size. It is an unsustainable situation."

Wild Child moved to the George's Arcade last year, selling fashion from the Sixties to the Eighties at high street prices, which young people were buying like it was contemporary fashion on sale in Topshop; Levi's 501's for €25, cropped dungarees such as Bananarama would have worn (€25), cool nylon tracksuit tops from the Eighties and Nineties by Adidas and Fila for just €20 and the most amazing jumpsuits (or playsuits as they are called in their current incarnation), again for just €25.

"I don't even use the word vintage anymore. We supply clothing now on a more contemporary fashion basis. I think about where customers' current choices are going to take them next. Our customers are in every week looking for something new. They are varied and very eclectic. Youth culture today is a total mish mash of old and new. Like their music. I think that is great. I celebrate it."

Will is on the move again, his new store in Drury Street, which officially opens tomorrow, will be back to what Will sees Wild Child Originals as being all about -- vintage clothing, furniture, lifestyle, from the Fifties onwards. "Quality, not just fashion trends," says Will.

The ground floor houses vintage clothing of the past 30 years, which is contemporary fashion to young men and women. The basement will house a teaser of what Will's furniture eye is all about -- rare, Danish design pieces and the like, more of which can be found on their website and in Wild Child's furniture warehouse in Harold's Cross, which you can visit by appointment only.

"The furniture will be more high end, as it always has been," explained Will.

The top floor is full of feminine and fabulous dresses and dressier pieces from the Fifties onwards. Deirdre, Will says, stops the store from being too male.

"I love industrial pieces, which Deirdre will look at me like I am mad," Will says. "I do get caught up in the story."

But to be a good retailer you have to get caught up in the story. When you are no longer inspired by the goods, by the business, you shouldn't be in it.

Judging by the energy of Wild Child Originals, for Will and Deirdre, that exit won't be any time soon, then!

All vintage clothing, accessories, furniture and interiors pieces featured are from Wild Child Originals, 26 Drury St, Dublin 2. Tel: 01 675-9933, or see or Wild Child Originals is open Monday to Saturday, 10-6, late opening Thursday until 7.

Photography: Dominique Beyens

Vintage Inspired Makeup: Karen Purdy. Tel: 087 090-8380

Concept & Styling: Deirdre Spratt at Wild Child Originals

Models: Ruth Loane, Polly Sharma & Aisling Breen (All Wild Child Originals Facebook fans and Fifties enthusiasts)

Sunday Independent

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