The Dunnes Stores face-lift: what else is new in Irish retail?

From a revamped Dunnes to indie boutiques, fashion is breaking down walls

 

The major dilemma of the Irish retail model these past couple of years has been the chase of profit margin, the growth of online shopping, and the rise of “fast fashion”, which forces the high-street to morph into each other. As a consequence, the retail model is left with a real lack of clear-cut signature design, no sense of personality or a point of difference.

Moving away from the nondescript knits and slightly frumpy dresses, the 72-year-old Dunnes Stores has undergone a face-lift. Affectionately coined Dunnés Boutique some years ago, it has now embraced the tongue-in-cheek nickname with an invigorated boutique-feel retail space in the Stephens Green Shopping Centre.

Feather sleeve top, €40; Limited Edition leather skirt, €110 (available in selected stores & online from mid-February), Savida at Dunnes Stores
Feather sleeve top, €40; Limited Edition leather skirt, €110 (available in selected stores & online from mid-February), Savida at Dunnes Stores

But the new Dunnes look is more than purely cosmetic. It has also gone in a dramatic sartorial departure by enlisting a roster of individual designers, each with their own capsule collections and signature styles.

These range from Joanne Hynes’s current array of perspex jewellery, printed dresses, and the infamous €900 shearling coat, it certainly shows no compromise of her design aesthetic. To Lennon Courtney’s clean and cool collection, the perfect antidote for work, or Paul Galvin’s male athlesiure-inspired range, complete with 70s track tops and longline bombers.

Shearling coat, €900; dress, €160; ankle socks, €10; leather mules, €140; Rousseau night embellished hairband, €110; key ring, €65
Shearling coat, €900; dress, €160; ankle socks, €10; leather mules, €140; Rousseau night embellished hairband, €110; key ring, €65

High-street giant

We can’t mention Irish retail without acknowledging the success of high-street giant Penneys, which has now spread across the fashion capitals of the world. A household name built from humble beginnings, Penneys (or Primark, as it is known internationally) has brought democracy to the high street, proving that anyone can look stylish on a budget. Tapping into the Irish psyche, Penneys has given people of all income brackets what they want: fashion that aligns with their budget and tastes.

Dress, €607, Solace London, Gallery 9
Dress, €607, Solace London, Gallery 9

The success of both retailers seems to be down to the fact that they appeal to customers across the generations. Rather than aiming at a particular age or monetary group, they produce pieces that a mother or daughter could equally wear. It’s about creating winning collections that deliver for real women in terms of sizing, styling and service.

Reigning supreme in terms of service and style, a slew of Irish boutiques are dominating the independent scene by offering an unrivalled experience – and in the process reinvigorating Ireland as a dynamic force in retail therapy.

Jumper, €10; jeans, €17; bag, €8; loafers, €13, all Penneys
Jumper, €10; jeans, €17; bag, €8; loafers, €13, all Penneys

3 unique floors

At the forefront of the unique experience is Om Diva, dominating three floors of retail on Dublin’s Drury street. This clever collection of up-and-coming Irish designers, laid-back vintage and eye-catching costume jewellery is all sourced by owner Ruth Ní Loinsigh.

Om Diva on Dublin’s Drury street
Om Diva on Dublin’s Drury street

Also offering a diverse shopping set-up is Folkster in Temple Bar, mixing vintage and contemporary fashion as well as interiors to great effect. When it comes to luxury boutique shopping in Ireland, it doesn’t get much better than Costume on Dublin’s Castle Market, which exclusively stocks cult brands such as Rochas and Vivetta. Or Havana in Donnybrook, whose stronghold is its exclusivity and contemporary design, seeking out designers du jour such as Molly Goddard, Paskal and of course, Simone Rocha.

Tulle Dress, €1,245, Molly Goddard, Havana Boutique in Donnybrook, Dublin
Tulle Dress, €1,245, Molly Goddard, Havana Boutique in Donnybrook, Dublin

Kalu and Gallery 9 in Naas and Samui in Cork all strive to give customers that wealth of expertise and stocking labels to lust after, including Giles, Solace London, and No21.

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