Thursday 26 April 2018

TrailBlazer - Cork boutique owner Clodagh Shorten

Jacket (on model's shoulders), €770, Paule Ka; lace blouse, €600, Sacai; culottes, €360, P.A.R.O.S.H; boots, €750, Marni. Hair accessory, stylist's own
Jacket (on model's shoulders), €770, Paule Ka; lace blouse, €600, Sacai; culottes, €360, P.A.R.O.S.H; boots, €750, Marni. Hair accessory, stylist's own
Liadan Hynes

Liadan Hynes

Just over a decade ago, running a boutique had become something of a hobby. As a buyer, on buying trips, I would regularly see fellow buyers for whom running their own store was as much an extension of their social life as it was a career. They favoured the 'one for me, one for the shop, one for my BF' method of buying. But the crash separated the wheat from the chaff, and now it is mostly the pioneers who remain as boutique owners. Women who have a strong, individual aesthetic, and who tirelessly chase exclusive labels, rather than just imitating what others are doing.

Clodagh Shorten, the owner of Cork boutique Samui, is one such woman. A legendary figure in Cork fashion, she worked in Monica John for almost 20 years before opening her own premises.

"I was very nervous, because I had no buying experience," Clodagh says now. "I had predominantly a sales background." In fact, shop-floor experience is what produces the best buyers. Years of seeing people of all shapes and tastes trying on clothes provides an instant reference of what works on different figures, which can instantly be called upon when buying. "You know how people will receive it," Clodagh reflects.

From the start, she knew she wanted an uncompromisingly high-end store. "Eventually, I wanted to be where I am now," she says, adding, "I remember telling a friend, 'I'd love to do a shop with Dries and Rick Owens and Marni'. We're slowly getting there. But it took years of building blocks."

For one thing, Samui sells the kind of labels that are hugely discerning about where they will allow themselves to be stocked; many will inspect a store before agreeing to sell to it. Taking on Rick Owens and Moncler really opened doors for Samui, and now the store's reputation precedes it. This season, they have scored the enormous coup of adding Belgian label Dries Van Noten to their list of labels.

Where most boutiques tend to pick one style and do it well - boho, avant-garde, yummy mummy - Samui is more of a mini department store, with a large variety of styles on offer. Alongside the beautiful printed trousers, oversize cream blazers and faux furs of Dries Van Noten, this season's offering includes slouchy knits from Acne; Houlihan cargo pants from J Brand; leather jackets by Rick Owens; playful prints on knitwear by Chinti & Parker; cashmere by Lucy Nagle; easy shift dresses by 3.1 Phillip Lim and Marni; gauzy jackets by No 21, and perfect black dresses by Alexander Wang.

"I never stop looking," Clodagh, a true fashion maven, says of the constant search for new labels. "The business needs to be constantly retuned."

Photography by Miki barlok

Styling by   Sarah Corcoran

Words by Liadan Hynes

Fashion edited by  Constance Harris

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