Two years ago, the manufacturing side of the Fran & Jane business closed down. Three boutiques remained open: Blackrock, Co Dublin; Clonmel, Co Tipperary; and the original store on Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork, which, last Friday, celebrated its 15th year in business. A complete rethink was required. Now, everything would have to be bought in - previously three-quarters of the Fran & Jane stores' stock had been their own label.
"Two years ago, I had to go and start buying from scratch," recalls owner Jane Baker, who runs the business with her partner Fran Nolan. "Two years later, we're in a much, much stronger position. Now I really feel that I am sourcing what our customers are looking for."
To replace what the Fran & Jane label had offered, Jane says, they took on 10 new labels. The changes in their business coincided with a shift in what customers were looking for. "There has definitely been a change in the past couple of years," Jane explains. "Separates have become very important. Clients are now looking for something with a bit of an edge."
Fran & Jane traditionally would have been known for occasion wear; now, they consider themselves a lifestyle shop. They have added a layer to the business: denim, casual separates, tailored pieces that work for the office, jumpsuits, and going-out tops that are perfect to wear with jeans - wine-o-clock tops, they call them.
Jane explains that they retain part of their buying budget to buy within season, so when mini trends pop up - for example, this season's voluminous sleeves, and stripy shirts - they can buy into them. There are also buying trips every five weeks to Milan and Paris to restock their accessories collection.
Colour was always an important part of their offering, and that remains the case. As does a wide range of sizes - they go up to a good size 16. "I still get the exact same kick out of it," says Jane of her enduring passion for the notoriously tough business of running fashion boutiques.
Now, she says, they're not really a mother-of-the-bride store, more guests at the wedding. "We're a work in progress. We're never done."
Photography by Anita Sadowska
Styling by Jane Baker
Words by Liadan Hynes
Fashion edited by Constance Harris
Sunday Indo Life Magazine