Joanne Hynes ups the ante again for Dunnes Stores

The pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap mantra is no longer en vogue at the Irish retail chain

“I could have been a risk for Dunnes because my design DNA is more radical – and my approach to every aspect of this monumental project is uncompromising. I am all over everything”, says Joanne Hynes who launched her latest collection for Dunnes Stores in London on Friday followed by a Dublin launch on Saturday in the Grafton Street store in a bold “see now, buy now” strategy. The Tiger Lady (her signature motif) has upped the ante once again.

It comes as no surprise that this fearless Irish fashion designer whose pricey fur coats were a talking point last season has included one of the most expensive items in any collection this season – a reversible black shearling coat complete with military style leather harness for €2,200. It’s a far cry from St Bernard and the pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap mantra pioneered by Dunnes Stores in the 1970s and 1980s but the brand has moved upmarket targeting more affluent customers so Hynes remains defiant.

“There are a lot of challenges of working for the high street which is equally very exciting because I have a variety of price points. Other coats are from €220 up. Retail is changing and the way people are shopping is changing and online is a huge marketplace and we are aiming to reach a new market and new customers [with this collection]”, she says. E-commerce now represents 70 per cent of her sales, mostly in Ireland but also the United Kingdom and United States.

This collection, her second for Dunnes, pays homage to two remarkable and spirited Irish women – Maud Gonne and Constance Markievicz – and the references show in the details, in the prints of Gonne’s face on dresses while the detachable leather harness alludes to the famous photographs of Markievicz in full regimental regalia. Other “little nods to the military feel” are bandsman stripes on trousers and embellished on coats.


But that’s just one part of a baroque collection of over 100 colourful and elaborate pieces in which digital print, sequins, feathers, jewellery, lace and embroidery reflect her wild imagination and flamboyance. There are silk opera coats, striped and jewelled tweeds, swan print dresses, bonded velvet coats, appliquéd knits, her Tiger Lily motif on bags and other accessories extending to a spectacular carpet commissioned from Ceadogan in Wexford.

“The way I work is that I have 20,000 photographs for my research and prints. I work very hard on each piece. It may look haphazard but it’s not – some pieces have taken up to three months to get right. Everything stands on its own merit. I have taken my own DNA from the past 20 years and I am using it here.”

So who are the customers for this eclectic mix? “I am told [by the sales assistants in Dunnes Stores] that my customers are women in their early 30s with children, wearing trainers and cashmere jumpers, cool older women in their 60s and 19-year-olds hovering around [the collection] and buying smaller pieces they can afford. That’s the reality of it. So the base is broad.”

The invite for the London presentation included the following mantra: life, love, loss, motherhood, responsibility, passion, conflict, nostalgia, the future, “words for which I would like to be remembered,” she says.

Joanne Hynes's A/W17 collection is on sale exclusively from Dunnes Stores, Grafton Street, Stephen's Green, Cornelscourt, Eyre Square in Galway and online at

Photography: Cherry Auhoni, art direction: David Poole and Joanne Hynes, hair and make-up: Eoin Whelan. Special thanks to Caoilfhionn Walsh, Kristy Lyons, Philippa Ryan, Michael Kennedy and Julie Rowan and to the OPW at Castletown House in Kildare where these photographs were taken.