Me In Various Vintage Coats

It’s just that easy, really.

This is me doing a spot of modelling for a friend’s vintage shop – and I use the word ‘modelling’ in the loosest terms possible. In fact, it it was much looser it would fall right off.

I love a nice winter coat, I do. Bonus points if it’s fuzzy. Extra super bonus points if it’s fuzzy and furry and an animalistic monstrosity like the wolfish looking one in the picture below. Be still, my gaping wallet.

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Licentiate Column 18/04/13: Vintage and Local

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Looking out at Pause Play Vintage

You wouldn’t want to be a small business owner at the best of times, but then again, this isn’t really the best of times we’re having. Businesses are closing left, right, centre and left and right of centre. The youth are draining away, using their creativity and liberal use of graft in other countries, and the news shows multiple accounts of boarded up buildings as a kind of shorthand in every report that involves the word ‘revenue’, ‘emigration’ or ‘rural’.

It’s funny really. Recently, there was a news report on my hometown, Tralee. It showed the boards, the shops (or lack thereof) and the depressed Yoof. Gotta love that depressed Yoof.

And yet. Three new businesses have opened in Tralee this week. One of them is a vintage clothing shop called Pause Play Vintage, in which I am typing this while the owner Dominique goes out to buy some lunch. I don’t work here, by the way. I just nipped in to have a look and ended up staying for a few hours chatting. It’s one of those idiosyncratic shops that one only finds in a small town, in a fog of community that rarely settles on larger bodies. Of course, the big temptation to this shop is the fact that there are clothes in it. I also may really be annoying Dominique by commandeering her laptop and getting bun crumbs all over the keyboard.

Vintage first became a worldwide phenomenon when Julia Roberts turned up to the Oscars in a vintage Valentino dress to collect her Best Actress gong for Erin Brockovich. In the simple black gown with white accents, Roberts took on a columnar, statuesque form herself. Between that and Kate Moss (and what more is there to say about Kate and vintage?) it has taken over with a force that can carpet towns best known for their Penney’s substance abuse problems.

It really is a lovely store – and again, I don’t work here or have any affiliations with the shop – all whitewashed freshness, taxidermy and candy-coloured stock; a virtually perfect mix of unselfconscious kitsch and cool.

We need more shops like this in Ireland. Scratch that, we need more shops like this in Cork. If you are in Cork city and in need of some vintage loving, I heartily encourage you to check out Miss Daisy Blue in The English Market and Mercury Goes Retrograde, which is just at the back of the Savoy Centre. Both are small businesses powered by love, knowledge, hard work and some seriously amazing vintage stock.

Support local businesses if you can. Support local fashion if you can. It is such an important thing to get involved with your community. At least see it like this; you couldn’t stroll into Debenham’s and borrow the manager’s laptop, only to have your writing efforts rewarded with a freshly-baked bun. Think about it.

Licentiate Column 06/12/12: Buy Irish (and Make a Better Christmas)

Even though I’m writing this column a week in advance, I think that I can predict with eerie, Nostradamus-like skills that it is cold, it is wet and it is utterly miserable outside. As temperatures drop and shoes made of natural fibres begin to degrade due to extreme schlepping through slush, it becomes more and more convenient to shop online.

I don’t need to extoll the many advantages of shopping online; if you have an internet connection and a credit card, then you’ll know what they are. However, buying presents from the safety of a small screen poses one quite distinct problem.

Buying online usually means not buying Irish. Not pumping money into the local economy means less money for everyone. I’ve skipped a few logical steps there, but this is not an economics column and I am not John Maynard Keynes.

Buy Irish, if you can. This is easy when it comes to fresh produce; we’re very lucky in Ireland in that respect. When it comes to fashion though, we literally are floating out on an island on our own.

But, and this labours the metaphor further, there are a limited number of life preservers to grab on to.

Craft fairs. One of the unexpectedly great things about a recession is seeing the reserve of strength and creativity being mined by an ever-increasing amount of people in Ireland. Stalls at craft fairs are no longer loaded with tat and fake-turquoise necklaces; now we can buy jewellery that isn’t self-consciously ‘crafty’ or homespun-looking but slickly executed. The democratisation of fashion makes professional techniques and materials more accessible, so your crafts are going to be of a better quality. Many designers and vintage sellers can be found at craft fairs. I quite like the The Fair Alternative, which is held in the old Unitarian Church near the English Market (next date – 8th of December).

Shop locally – online. I know, I know I said earlier that shopping online was the devil, but there’s always a loophole when Beelzebub is involved. Etsy (etsy.com) is a global marketplace but you can search for shops based in Ireland.  The new kid on the block, Prowlster (theprowlster.com) is an online magazine-cum-boutique that sell the best of Irish designers, including jeweller Merle O’Grady and designer Emma Manley. If you can’t choose just one thing, Prowlster also offer gift vouchers.

Local boutiques. If you have to buy that British-label dress, think about buying it in a local shop instead of online. While it’s important to shop for the best price, don’t immediately expect things to be cheaper online – you may be pleasantly surprised. You’d also be surprised at how many boutique owners are willing to haggle, which is more than can be said for online high-street retailers (trust me, I’ve tried).

Buying Irish this year isn’t just an easy way to give something unique to the person you love. It’s also a way for use to sew a tiny thread of confidence back into a country that has been torn, socially and economically, into shreds. If everyone does this, we make the first step towards mending ourselves.