PHOTOGRAPHY BY COLIN PRICE FASHION EDITED BY CONSTANCE HARRIS
Hanging out in Elaine Curtis’s designer store in Carlow reminded me of the tagline from US sitcom Cheers — “where everyone knows your name”. Woman after woman walked in Elaine’s door and was greeted by name.
For Carlow native Elaine, living in her community is hugely important to her. From a young age, in the late Nineties and into the early Noughties, she was a successful knitwear designer, based in Dublin. But she gave it up to return home and create her boutique instead.
Because she knew her people, Elaine knew they were ready and able for high-quality, discerning, designer clothing with a unique signature. She was right: her business is now 11 years old.
“I am not that store where women come in looking for that dress-andcoat look that people seem to favour so much now,” Elaine told me. “If I do a coat that has a dress to match it, it will be something extremely unique, such as the Manoush knit coat with sequins, which is unusual and quirky and works on its own.”
Elaine’s design background gives her the confidence to buy original and individual-looking clothes, while her experience creating knitwear ranges for women means she has an acute understanding that fashion’s role is to make women feel good about themselves.
So while you might find unusual pieces in her store, they will never be unwearable. Clothes for life and living is what she is about.
“Women struggle so much with self-image and self-esteem that it is essential that clothes lift our spirits. But, too often, it is the other way around — women can try on a look and feel worse about themselves. Which is why I buy with people’s body shapes in mind, and I always buy up to size 16 and 18 when I can get it within a range and think it will work for that size woman,” she says.
As I go through her rails, the other thing that strikes me — apart from the fabulous colour and unique prints that abound — is the gorgeous quality of fabrics in all the clothes I am touching. “Being a knitwear designer has made me obsessive about quality,” Elaine explains. “I am about women, mainly aged 40 up, who love to express themselves through their clothes.”
She does this via Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti; Sonia by Sonia Rykiel; Morine Comte Marant; Diane von Furstenberg; Manoush; By Malene Birger; Rutzou; Just in Case; Veronica Moncho Lobo; MiH jeans; Electronic Sheep knitted accessories; and local talent — the jewellery designer Blaithin Ennis.
Carlow, I am hugely envious of your style.