Shoptalk: Dublin’s Dawson Street

Are you being served? The column that looks at stock, style and service in shops around Ireland

Optica, a boutique eyewear business run by husband and wife team Donal and Deirdre McNally

Optica, a boutique eyewear business run by husband and wife team Donal and Deirdre McNally

 

Dawson Street, one of Dublin’s most beautiful thoroughfares, is currently blighted by Luas works but savvy shoppers will have noticed a subtle change in its ambience and shoppingscape in the last 12 months.

Tower Records has reopened here having vacated Wicklow Street to let Cos set up its flagship store there.

The move by Optica, a boutique eyewear business run by husband and wife team Donal and Deirdre McNally, to the street is another welcome addition. Optica first opened its doors in 1993 in the Royal Hibernian Way and occupied two corners there. The maverick couple made a spectacle of spectacles decades before fashion put eyewear into sharp focus but while the shops in the Royal Hibernian Way looked amazing they always felt intimidating to browse.

In contrast, the new and more visible store (pictured right), designed by 21 Spaces, feels far more welcoming. This is in part due to the fact you can now try on the styles at your own pace. The stock is unfettered by the caged systems that used to be the industry standard to showcase sunglasses and eyewear. You can try on styles for fun as well as for real.

Situated on the corner of Duke Street and Dawson Street the premises is housed in one of the city’s landmark Victorian shop fronts. The interior is set over two levels and while this is a temporary pop-up shop the McNallys have spent money on it to give it plenty of panache. Optica will be setting up permanent shop in Dawson Street later this year in the former David Marshall hair salon premises.

Entry-level frames by Prada cost an eyewatering €200 but if you buy into their credo that eyewear is like a piece of jewellery then the investment seems to pay dividends as the right pair of glasses not only frames your face but, much like good make-up, makes you look more than the sum of your parts. Optica.ie

Also check out Design House, a three-storey shopping experience conceived by fashion designer Bebhinn Flood. Each room in the property crammed to the point of being cluttered with design, craft, art, jewellery and bridal wear, mostly by Irish makers and there are some notable discoveries. Thedesignhouse.ie

Dawson Jewellers, an institution on the street since 1980, stocks new, preowned and vintage fashion and fine jewellery and high quality timepieces such as Rolex, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Omega, Breitling and Tag Heuer. It’s the place to come and buy your fella a statement watch. Dawsonjewellers.ie

For facts, fiction, crime and romance head to Hodges Figgis, one of the capital’s great bookshops where the staff will happily enlighten you about authors you haven’t read before.

Sweet Sicily is an easily missed little pit stop run by Sicilian Letizia Tomsello and housed in the basement of the Design House. Her chocolate cannoli rolled in hazelnuts, €5, washed down with a latte, €2.60, is a diversion worth making. Sweetsicily.ie

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