Thanks, Portuguese Penneys: how Parfois won hearts in Ireland
Its stores look like luxury boutiques but its prices are low. No wonder so many Irish people shop there
Sunglasses €12.99, coat €69.99, bag €39.99, bracelet €12.99
‘I am just an ordinary person trying to get by and I love Parfois and buy their handbags,” says Audrey Myers, 44, a mother-of-four who works in a northside supermarket. “I probably have about 10 or 11 bags but I can go in to Parfois and they will have something for me and for my two daughters aged 15 and 17 that I can afford because they do such a big range. There’s one I have had for three years, an Indian style in brown suede with tapestry and tassels – really hippie – and another in a not-too-blingy leopard print which I love. My 17-year-old daughter has a crossbody in the same print, so you can see how it appeals to all ages. You have to please people’s pockets and hard-earned money these days,” she says.
Myers is just one of the many fans of Parfois, a kind of Portuguese Penneys based in Porto which attracts customers and followers of fashion for its down-to-earth prices and stylish accessories presented in shops that look more like luxury boutiques. Though the brand has more than 700 stores all over the world, in Ireland there are just seven, a fact that appeals to Niamh Galvin, 27, a UCC commerce graduate who works in Dublin.
“Because there are not that many stores, you rarely see anyone wearing the same things, and there are not a lot of brands that have nice jewellery as well as sunglasses, bags and shoes all under the same roof, which gives them a big advantage,” she says.
Feminine flights of fancy
The new winter season – under the guidance of global director Susana Coerver, who divides her time between Lisbon and Porto – offers a dizzying array of feminine flights of fancy and opulent details on bags and other accessories: mixes of patchwork, flowers, feathers, beads, fake fur and abstract prints. Key clothing pieces such as cable knits, metallic knit tunics and tweed jackets provide well-chosen backdrops, and nothing exceeds €69.99 – the price of a jacket or coat.
At a recent presentation in Lisbon, we spotted some attractive yet functional black leather bucket bags, black marabou stilettoes for the party season, colourful patchwork clutches, quilted floral-print chain-handled bags, two-tone runners and kitten-heeled suede shoes, along with new stainless-steel jewellery and silver- and gold-plated rings. It’s an exuberant mix of styles, materials and details with sporty, grungy and bohemian touches, characteristic of Parfois’s eclectic approach.
‘Big jewellery girl’
“I am a big jewellery girl,” says Mykaela Tomlinson from Limerick, an English and music student, another fan. “And I am in and out of the Parfois shop in the Crescent [Shopping Centre, Limerick] ever since it opened over a year ago. I always pick something that I like because their jewellery is so reasonably priced and so different to anything on the high street. I first got to know it because I was given a gift of gold hoop earrings but since then I have a suitcase my mother bought me for a trip to London and a pair of snakeskin boots that were only €35 and are so comfortable and well made. My latest purchase was a reversible handbag”.
The store’s current campaign was shot in Porto’s Faculty of Economics, a building from 1974 designed by the architect Viana de Lima, with two models, Lottie Hayes from the UK and Sigrid Vieira from Portugal. Vieira looks like a young Chloë Sevigny and is a dancer – ballet, contemporary and jazz – who has modelled for Vogue, Paul Smith and Zara and brings a special energetic air to the current collection.