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Irish boutiques offer spring style to freshen up your wardrobe

Caroline Kilkenny brings refreshing wave of colour and Louis Copeland provides casual alternatives for men, plus many more

After months of being penned into our homes and denied of our personal freedoms – the fabulous fashion wave arriving to our boutiques happily coincides with a lifting of restrictions.

“All dressed up with somewhere to go!” is the latest style statement as we regain our lives. Brighter horizons and sunny staycation plans spell a new look for our wardrobes that will brighten up the monotony of the dress-down lockdowns. After such a sustained period of self-denial on the shopping front, there is a general craving for splashing out on a collection of sustainable pieces.

The new range of dresses from Caroline Kilkenny's CK collection and the Sisters range with Nicola Kilkenny – brings a blast of Mediterranean sunshine to our battered, rain-drenched shores. For women there is a refreshing wave of hot coloured shift dresses, citrus yellow blouses, pops of pink and crisp nautical trousers to greet us as we emerge from our Covid cocoons.

Caroline and Nicola Kilkenny have been busy designing a range of easy-wear summer dresses to lift our spirits as well our hemlines. The fabrics come in figure-flattering styles that are comfortable for everyday wear and work events too. The beige cool linen jackets are perfect for lunchtime meetings or cocktails on the patio after six and can be worn with fresh tennis skirts or white trousers. The soft pastel pink dresses are ideal for the younger market and can be teamed with simple sandals or given a lift in heels for evening wear. Grab a can of Cocoa Brown tanning spray to conceal those anaemic, wind-whipped legs.


Men have also been loosening their ties and belts over the last few months with more casual dressing now taking over from suits and formal tailoring. There will be a very slow movement back to formality as the borders blur between office and loungewear.

Louis Copeland – a stalwart of urban style – has been coping well in business thanks to a loyal clientele who have been ordering his smart range of warm jackets and sweaters over the cooler winter months. They are now turning their attention to more casual wool jackets, suede bombers and smart denims that suit the more relaxed workwear approach.

Although double-breasted business suits and waistcoats will not be top of the male wardrobe list at the moment, there is a big demand for street-smart style that suits all occasions. In fact, with the warmer weather approaching, the home-based executive is more likely to be found sitting in his office box room in a pair of boxers and a bow tie, rather than a shirt and tie.

Even in these quieter moments – devoid of transatlantic flights and overseas conferences – it pays to maintain an air of professionalism, even if the closest you’re getting to the office is via Zoom. A few simple investments this spring should include a couple of pairs of designer denims, suede loafer shoes, a few linen shirts and a brace of T-shirts – to give you a decent wardrobe to kick off the season.

Casual alternative

A casual alternative to the more structured line of tailored trousers would be something with a bit more stretch like Jeans by Armani, Boss or Richard J Brown – as they provide comfort without sacrificing professionalism. A range of crew-necked jumpers or collared polo shirts are also perfect for delivering that knockout punch of post-pandemic polish.

Baldassari’s knitted “swacket” may sound like the choice of a swaggering, conceited stockbroker, but according to Louis Copeland it makes the perfect compromise between a jacket and a jumper. “It’s a handy transition piece in the wardrobe.”

The item is the sartorial equivalent to the controversial “It’s a biscuit. It’s a bar” debate as it hovers between two stools but never falls like a dishevelled drunk between them.

Copeland’s clothing emporium is still going strong and eager to reopen its doors. “We’ve been very busy online thank God, which has kept us ticking over,” says Louis.

There is an air of relaxed elegance about the looser fashion days ahead. Nobody expects you to face a Zoom meeting from home looking like Emmanuel Macron at a G7 meeting , but if you combine a touch of French elan with a twist of Mick Wallace charm, you are on to sartorial success with that quasi Mick/Macron finish.

A-list fashion

Men's international fashion contests always boast an A-list line-up of dream team dressers. GQ's recent selection of best dressed men inevitably included international soccer pin-up David Beckham – wearing a pale dove grey suit, a perfect white T-shirt and a pair of white trainers bearing the imprint of Victoria's stilettos. These style wars also include the shadier silhouettes of Denzel Washington or Keanu Reeves, who was also the face of Yves Saint Laurent's campaign revealing a tougher, gritty side. Dark silk shirts and charcoal linen suits define his stage act and Heathcliff persona.

Footwear for men has certainly evolved from the harder leather brogues and laced black boats to softer shaped loafers for the office. The footsie index in style has taken a bit of downward tilt as guys working from home prefer a pair of sliders or trainers for loping around the house. The wanderlust women will usually opt for casual sandals or comfy Sketchers. There are also lots of gender-neutral additions with backless slip-on styles from the catwalks of Gucci as well as lighter Birkenstock sandals with double banding for summer.

Relaxed knits

Kate Gleeson of Diffusion.ie has also a wonderful collection of soft relaxed knits in wildcat colours from tunics and ponchos to cashmere wraps that drape neatly over tapered white trousers for summer. She is also a keen foot soldier of shoe trends and is selling lots of snow white platform sneakers with moulded soles as well as dainty pointy-toed kitten heels.

The Stables in Birr Co Offaly has caused stir during the lockdown by displaying an incredibly broad range of fascinating dresses and style pieces. The owner also has a super Instagram account to keep her clients connected over the past few months and offers inspiration on homewares as well as for fashionistas looking out for something a bit different and defiant.

The Stables also sells ethnic jewellery and sculpted neck pieces – those extra elements that so many of us have left on the back-burner for a long time.

Finally, there is the new wave of spring/summer headgear – from Panama hats to wide-brimmed boaters getting heads turning from ardent millinery admirers. Serena in Sandymount has a selection of fab floppy hats – like a chic chapeau from Monaco – to give you that essence of Monte Carlo even if you are in Montenotte. In fact, her popular boutique brings a twist of Sandy Lane to the coastal village of Sandymount.