For Amber, Kildare Village is no ordinary outlet mall. It's more tranquil and luxurious than she had expected, with lush landscaping and excellent local dining options. The Village is also home to Só Collective– the most comprehensive retail space for emerging and established Irish designers and artisans in the country, where the best of Irish craftspeople and designers are brought together under one roof.
Só Collective celebrated its one-year anniversary in April, more than half of the brands are female-led businesses and young and emerging artists are well-represented alongside more established Irish labels like Emma Manley and Umit Kutluk. The plethora of enticing gifts include single-origin craft chocolate bars by Bean and Goose, hand-bound notebooks by Duffy Bookbinders and eco-friendly candles by Candella.
“We want our chocolate to be an affordable luxury,” sisters Karen and Natalie Keane of Bean and Goose explain. Very fitting considering 'só' means luxury or treat in Gaelic.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me,” says Paula Rowan, Ireland's only glove designer. “I'm proud to be among other small Irish designers at such a high level of quality.” Rowan is one of the more well-known labels at Só Collective, with her own shop in Dublin under The Westbury Hotel and an international presence in boutiques like 10 Corso Como in Milan.
“Ireland is a really small country,” says cashmere knitwear designer Ros Duke. “We often look outside for what's cool and new when sometimes it's right under our noses. Só Collective really recognizes that.”
Duke uses cashmere exclusively from Loro Piana and contracts individual craftswomen to produce all of her pieces in Dublin on vintage domestic knitting machines. “Manufacturing is coming back on a much smaller scale,” she says of the cottage industry she is supporting. Her pieces are a stark contrast to tightly knitted industrial cashmere. “I'm trying to create a surface texture,” she says. “Loosen it up a little bit.”
Jill de Búrca also manufactures all of her intricately embroidered pieces in Ireland, on vintage Irish Singer embroidery machines. “It takes time to master [the machines],” she says. “But the quality and luster is so much better than any digitally embroidered fabrics.” Many of her embroidered gowns are one of a kind and she's also started designing wedding dresses. Most recently, she embroidered Bono's waistcoat and made decorative patches for U2's current tour.
“I was blown away by the store,” de Búrca says. She and the other designers appreciate the exposure to new customers, serious shoppers that might be looking for brand names but find themselves intrigued thanks to the store's footfall in such a commercial venue.
“There's a lovely warmth and openness among the designers,” Duke adds. “We're all sharing resources and connections. There's not the competitiveness that I've felt in the past.” Duke also teaches an undergraduate design class at Griffith College, where she hopes to encourage a new generation of artists and designers.
“Fashion does have a future here and it can become a lucrative industry for Ireland, but it can be hard to find funding,” de Búrca admits. “We need more support.”
Só Collective not only gives designers the space to showcase and sell their work, but Kildare Village also sponsors a fashion bursary to support a new generation of Irish designers achieve their potential internationally. The inaugural recipient, Michael Stewart, just graduated from the Royal College of Art in London with a master's degree in fashion womenswear. The next bursary will be awarded in coming months.
Beyond Só, many Irish and British brands are found at Kildare Village alongside more typical outlet fixtures like Armani, Le Creuset, Diane von Furstenberg and kate spade new york. Louise Kennedy has her only outlet location here and Anya Hindmarch, Ted Baker, Penhaligon's, Thomas Pink and N.Peal also have stores.
The Village also offers an array of services to make your shopping experience even more special including Personal Shopping, dog kennels and hands-free shopping. This summer guests to Dublin can also take advantage of the new Shopping Express® Summer Shuttle bus, a complimentary service that takes guests from Dublin city directly to the Village. The new service is available until the end of August and you can find out more information here.
The original article can be found here.