TNT24ie Fashion Interview: Emma Ahern of Brocade and Lime

  • How did Brocade & Lime come about? 

A derelict building, maternity leave, some rainy day savings and an idea that just couldn’t be banished from my mind!!! I’ve lived in Edinburgh, London, Sydney and LA and spent many a summer in New York and Paris where unusual boutiques are actively encouraged and supported. I noticed a gap in the Irish boutique market for a themed shopping experience.

  •  Did you have a concept in mind?

I wanted to introduce a new and unique concept in shopping… An all-exclusive ‘vintage inspired’ themed boutique!!  I wanted to blend together all of the favourite past times of women the world over… take shopping to a new enjoyment level!!! The boutique would not only stock clothing but would also operate a lime green retro beauty parlour with black and white movies projected around the hidden courtyard walls. All of this would be served with complimentary signature cocktails and cupcakes.

I would stock modern designers that had brazenly pillaged the past for inspiration – Collections would be designated decades from the past from the ‘art decadent’ 20′s to the ‘psychedelic’ 70s!!! Sourced worldwide from Costa-Rica to Moscow to local Irish designers!! A small but selective range of iconic vintage pieces would also be stocked… Lest we forget the original!! Furthermore I would enhance all the dresses with faux-vintage corsets, petticoats and hosiery, complimenting them each with a matching hat, shoe and lip-stick.

  • Tell us a little about yourself have you always been involved in fashion?

My background is in biomedicine.  I specialised in immunohistochemistry…  A very specific field that assists in the detecting and classifying of malignant tumours.  I think walking around in a lab coat, plastic gloves and goggles for 10 years certainly made me yearn for something more glamorous!! I think I’d always been a frustrated fashion designer. As I grew older the fact that I liked the latest fashion fad less and less became more and more apparent… I started to look at the classic styles of the past and preferred them immeasurably.  I must not have been alone as the public’s perception of

‘vintage’ changed and the ‘vintage’ revolution began to pick up speed.  My research into ‘vintage inspired’ clothing began about 6 years ago in a purely selfish quest to fill my own wardrobe!!

  • How have you found launching a new boutique while still in recession? Has it been difficult?

Opening any new business in a recession is challenging and involves the use of a calculator, a huge contingency fund and a promise to yourself that you will never give up. The reaction from the public has been immensely positive and spurs me on relentlessly. The people of Cork, I am glad to say, have embraced ‘Brocade and lime’ and were generally were happy to see something so colourful, original and fresh appear in this economic slump we have found ourselves in!!  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Cork for all their well wishes and such a wonderfully warm welcome.

  • Do you think women have a different spend mentality now?

Yes I do… I find that if women are going to spend a substantial amount of money on a dress they are looking for quality, a unique timeless design and service as well as value and the knowledge that they are going to wear it again and again.  I think that is one of the reasons vintage in so ‘in vogue’ at the moment – Vintage inspired designs can never be dated to a specific Spring Summer collection – They will always be timeless and never be out of style!! Gone are the days of the ‘spontaneous’ spend – buying on a whim!! The majority of my customers come in for hours, try on everything, take pictures, have a cocktail and cupcake and then come back with a friend/sister/mother for that all important second opinion.  The good thing for me is that my return rate is almost nil because so much thought has gone into the initial purchase.

  • You are offering an overall experience with the store so do you target online shoppers? Tell us what a customer can expect when they come into you.

I am confident that Brocade & Lime can compete with its high-street and online rivals by offering a unique shopping experience. I also endeavour to offer the service of a by-gone era – Personal styling and advice, alterations, In-house millinery service.  I enhance all the dresses with faux-vintage corsets, petticoats, gloves, hosiery, footwear and make-up. I also take commissions and love challenges so if you should wish a stylish and utterly unique ensemble for that special occasion… I will gladly source it!! I offer a guarantee that we will never knowingly charge more than what people can find full price online… we often charge up to €80 less.

The shop premises itself is something to behold – I am proud to say I have overseen the complete refurbishment of a near–derelict 1850’s Townhouse and restored it back to its former glory. My cash desk is an art deco theatre kiosk, imported from France. The chandeliers could be from the Hollywood glamour era of the 50s. The wallpaper is distinctly, unquestionably 60s. The hand-painted Moroccan tiles in the hidden courtyard are reminiscent of the 70s. I have remained true to the Victorian roots of the building with decorative coving, ornate ceiling roses, parquet flooring and high skirting. This collage of decades, I hope, justly compliments my stock. The hidden courtyard holds a retro beauty parlour where your hair and makeup can be styled to completely authenticate your outfit. Customers can drink complimentary cocktails while watching their favourite black and white movies.

  • Where do you see Brocade & Lime in 10 years’ time?

I would like to see Brocade & Lime as the ultimate destination emporium where timeless style, superior taste and impeccable service are assured. An interesting and eclectic must-visit boutique for all-things vintage inspired. I aim to add and constantly improve the line-up each year.

I have just opened Upstairs@Brocade&Lime and welcomed Aoife Potter-Cogan as my in-house Milliner. We are going to sacrifice dresses for their material to create bespoke one of a kind head pieces that perfectly match each dress downstairs. I will also be stocking vintage inspired shoes from next month, sourced from Denmark and Brazil. I hope to be the one-stop shop where the discerning wedding guest can find the complete ensemble with a guarantee that no-one else will have the same outfit! Where the savvy but stylish business woman can find (and fill) the perfect wardrobe. I want to be able to offer the complete package to any lady who loves colour, pattern, and texture and can appreciate the evolving styles and designs of the past.

I have 2 more floors to renovate so the possibilities are endless – Who knows what the future might hold? It certainly won’t be boring though! If there are any aspiring designers out there that can offer a unique product or service to the Brocade&Lime customer, by all means, please get in touch… Perhaps a Jeweller/Fashion designer/Photographer/Artist/Pop up shop/Tea room/Circus???  - The only prerequisite is that it must be ‘vintage inspired’!!!

  • What fashion period or look do you love in your own personal style?

I change my favourite era constantly. I love them all!!! (Discounting the 80s obviously). I love the serious femme fatale allure of the 40s, the fun frothy femininity of the 50s – An era made for dancing!! I love the confident colour/pattern that emerged in the fabulous new fabrics of the 60s.

 

  • If there was one celebrity be them dead or alive that you would love to dress who would it be?

Queen Victoria – I know she was in mourning… but seriously 40 years in black??? Wouldn’t you just love to get her out of those constrictive corsets and high collars and see her in a floaty red maxi dress from the 70’s? Or maybe a comfortable crimplene dress in shocking pink? Perhaps she would be more of a 50’s girl? Yes… a bright full-circle dress covered in Sunflowers with a matching hat.

  • Lastly something you cannot live without?

My Family… I couldn’t live a day without my 2 gorgeous sons, Tadgh and Jock. After that I suppose I couldn’t live without the occasional glass of wine -preferably with a packet of Crisps!!

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