Where would you find 18 fashion collections, six knitwear collections, five millinery collections, more than 17 accessory collections (including jewellery) and more than 10 menswear and accessory collections – all from Irish designers and all in one place?
The answer is at Kildare Village, where the Só Collective celebrates the strength of Irish talent, north and south, in fashion as well as craft. This concept store, which also includes ceramics, home furnishings and childrenswear, a first for the Village, is a pioneering step in gathering together and preserving a stellar list of vibrant Irish creatives, with more than 70 homegrown designers demonstrating the wealth of contemporary expertise in this country.
The Só Collective (the word Só is the Gaelic for treat or luxury) opened this spring with a selected edit of work from both seasoned designers and emerging makers. It is the only bricks and mortar space for many brands not stocked anywhere else in Ireland.
The boutique, designed by Jennifer Chan and Jonathan Legge (who trained with Ron Arad), to look both luxurious and earthy, makes use of limestone, marble, copper and lace, with both traditional and modern touches. Videos, in-store exhibitions and demonstrations are central to the idea, along with “From the Maker” monthly talks.
The project was conjured up by the creative consultancy Baluba, headed up by Clare native Mark Quinn, who has worked with brands such as Cos, Harvey Nichols and Hostem in London.
Pop-up shops and concept stores that are rapidly expanding in major world cities provide new alternatives and experiences that cannot be replicated online. Colette in Paris, the original concept store, now 20 years old, attracts a cult following and has become a tourist destination known for being fresh, surprising and ahead of the posse. The French idea of a concept store has broadened to include food, and more recently, a dedicated menswear outlet and gallery called Mayaro, which opened in the 7th arrondisement last month showcasing limited edition goods and artisanal products.
Among the Irish designers at Só Collective are Danielle Romeril, Helen Steele, Natalie Coleman, alongside art and fashion house We are Islanders (from Galway) and Tissue, founded by printmaker Grainne Finn and designer Hannah Mullan. Knitters include London-based Derek Lawlor, Ros Duke and Coletti, with millinery from Martha Lynn, Fiona Mangan and Laura Kinsella and shoes by Maurice Clarke and Liam Fahy. Among the jewellers are Natasha Sherling, Melissa Curry and Martina Hamilton.
All the designer collections stocked in So Collective, like the other outlet boutiques in Kildare Village, have savings of up to 60 per cent off the recommended retail price. The outlet is open seven days a week.
Photography: Andrew Nuding; styling: Kieran Kilgallon; model: Aine O'Gorman, Andrea Roche Model Agency; hair and make-up: Mary Ellen Darby, Morgan The Agency