Bringing Europe’s finest fashion to Cork with Catalan flair
Isabel Monreal Ruestes: From one-time visitor to shop owner
Check coat €250, yellow floral jumper €115, floral print silk scarf €185. All from Monreal, Winthrop Arcade, Cork
The story of how a Catalan law student on an Erasmus programme in Ireland started a fashion shop in Cork reads like the stuff of fiction.
Isabel Monreal Ruestes came to this country in 1990 to further her studies, met an Irish physicist, married him after finishing her degree and as a “transitional experiment” opened a shop in Cork called Monreal.
“I was looking for a good handbag and went to Dublin and decided if I saw a woman with a bag that I liked I would ask her where she got it. The options at the time in Ireland were limited. I told my mother I couldn’t find any and she said, so why don’t you open a shop yourself? ”
What I like isn’t necessarily what the customer likes but quality is what brings customers back
That was 20 years ago and the Monreal boutique, primarily known for bags and footwear and for an exclusive line up of French, Danish, Italian and Spanish clothing brands, is now an established presence in the city.
Most items initially were imported from Monreal’s native Spain, but over the years have been supplemented with others from Europe chosen for their quality and craftsmanship like Longchamp from France and Ilse Jacobsen from Denmark.
Shoppers come for others like Vic Matie shoes and bags from Italy, Pons Quintana and C Doux shoes from Spain and the Javier Simora clothing from Barcelona, a quirky individual mix with its own appeal for those who want something different.
“One of the most important things I have learnt over the years is that what I like isn’t necessarily what the customer likes but quality is what brings customers back”, maintains Monreal whose boutique is located in the historic Winthrop Arcade one of the city’s landmark buildings from 1926.
These outfits styled from the shop and the Designworks jewellery studio are geared to a transitional season, still wintry with a nod to the rich colour palette of winter blooms driven by romantic Pre Raphaelite paintings while embracing popular trends of faux fur, check, floral knitwear and animal prints.
Prices start at €65 for gloves up to €500 and over for bags. Here’s how to bag a few ideas on how to put together the mix with the addition of vibrant handmade inhouse jewellery from €125 upwards.
Director and stylist: Mary Ginnifer, assisted by Catherine Ginnifer; photographer: Glenn Norwood; hair: Patrick Murphy, Edit Hair Club, Cork; MUA: Nicole Lynch; model: Eshana Krautz, Assets Models; location/props: The Winthrop Arcade Cork and The Best of Buds Flowers, Cork.