When I was a young ‘un, “buy Irish” was a phrase bandied around, willy-nilly, by people wanting you to support your local economy. Of course, when I was a young ‘un we were in the throes of the Celtic Tiger when, really, it didn’t matter what you bought; everybody was buying pretty much non-stop and the economy was doing okay.
Then – duh duh duhnnnnnn – the economic collapse happened, and it became genuinely important to support an economy whose boot straps were trailing in the mud. So it was inevitable, but no less impressive as a result, that a whole swathe of Irish companies and designers would come rising from the ashes of the crash to tempt us to part, once more, with our hard-earned euros.
Now, we’re utterly spoiled for choice when it comes to buying Irish – there’s even a website dedicated to it, Give Irish Craft that has a whole lot more than the Celtic symbols, Claddagh rings and Aran jumpers we were told were good purchases for the whole of the 1990s. You can buy seriously incredible jewellery, for example; stunning printed silk scarves; pottery that doesn’t look like you made it in home ec. Here are my top five.
- Susannagh Grogan
Grogan studied at Chelsea College of Art & Design in London and cut her teeth working with Macy’s, Tommy Hilfiger and Victoria’s Secret. Now she designs her incredible silk scarves in a studio in Dún Laoghaire – and they were even chosen as gifts for the US-Irish Alliance Pre Oscar Party, ending up in the grubby mitts of none other than Michelle Williams and Melissa McCarthy. Today you can buy Grogan’s scarves (and tablet sleeves) in Brown Thomas, Harvey Nichols, Clerys and Seagreen (more stockists here). XL floral lace signature scarf, €195
- Eily O’Connell
O’Connell studied at NCAD, where her core year convinced her that jewellery design was where her passion lies. More specifically, beautiful, organic, slightly creepy-crawly jewellery that treads a fine line between stunning and spooky. Think beetles and crab claws, beehives and acorns, cast in sterling silver or gold plated with enamel accents. You can shop on her website at eilyoconnell.com or online at Coldlilies. This gold-plated honeycomb bracelet is top of my list, €380.
Chupi Sweetman Pell was scouted by Topshop to work as a guest designer in their Stephen’s Green store before she turned 21 – today she’s switched her focus from clothing to jewellery, and I for one am immensely glad. Her delicate (and, crucially, affordable) gold pieces are cute, quirky and really wearable, and make brilliant gifts (for oneself). These gold and green chalcedony earrings remind me so much of Annoushka Ducas’s gorgeous designs (but are approximately two zeros off the price), €64.
- Pauric Sweeney
From the sublimely affordable to the ridiculously sublime, Sweeney’s handbags are things of beauty – designed by the Irishman and produced in rare skins, metallic leathers and beautiful soft suedes, they’re the kinds of bags you’ll own forever. Well, you’d want to – especially when you’ll pay €1,000-plus for the privilege (Brown Thomas has a decent range). (Keep an eye on Facebook for their sample sales, though – and if you do venture along, bring a friend, otherwise it’ll just be you, Pauric and his very glamorous Italian PR awkwardly fingering price tags together.) This python bag is just incredible, and exactly the right size for my laptop (hint, hint, Santa). €1428.24 at farfetch.
Margaret O’Rourke’s MoMuse is just one of the many reasons to take a trip into Bow, the Powerscourt Townhouse boutique she runs, along with Wendy Crawford and Eilis Boyle – it’s mentioned in every single “hidden gem” article written about Dublin in the past three years, and that is not an exaggeration. Aesthetically, MoMuse runs the gamut, from delicate 14ct gold filled necklaces to chunkier bracelets using semi-precious stones and volcanic lava. These hoops-but-not-quite hoops are right up my street, €55.