IMAGE Boutique Awards: The best boutiques you need to know outside of Dublin

Dublin city is awash with extraordinary independent shopping destinations. From stores that boast one-off, bespoke creations and trend-focused pieces to retailers selling every-day staples, there is literally something for everyone and every budget. And while it might seem like Dublin is the only fashion capital on the island, it isn't. The magic continues to happen outside the buzz of Dublin city and our new Boutique Awards exemplify this. Cork is chock-full with stylish, high-end independent oasis'. Limerick takes a fresh approach to modern dressing, while the west favours and treasures local craftswomen and craftsmanship.

What's interesting is that practically all of our nominated boutiques agree that social media is one of the most important tools for rural businesses; especially for drawing in new customers and researching new labels. Most – if not all – of the boutiques featured here have come out the other side of a crippling recession, beaming with energy and determination. Each shop is unique to where it's rooted, and this is reflected by their beautiful edits. So next time you're stuck in a rut in Dublin city, think outside the box! You might just find your new favourite haunt...

Why we love it: Like many boutiques set outside the cosmopolitan bubble of Dublin city, the recession hit Samui hard. Having acquired more than 18 years' experience though, boutique owner Clodagh Shorten was equipped to tackle the lows and highs that the recession brought. Now, Samui is a thriving hub of luxury and high-end fashion. It has accumulated a cult-like following not only in Cork, but online and nationwide too. And with an impressive repertoire of brands in stock, like Jacquemus, J. Brand, Rick Owens and Etro, it's no surprise. But it isn't just about luxury clothes, either. As owner Clodagh Shorten says; "whether you’re looking for a hand cream or a designer coat, you’re guaranteed to find something very special".


Why we love it: Envoy of Belfast has been flying its flag high for eleven years now. Owner Ruth Spence has filled her boutique with brands like Comme Des Garcon, Acne Studios, Alexa Chung and Marni, so there's a variety to choose from whether you desire sophisticated and clean or something with more of a street, urban focus. Interestingly, Envoy of Belfast is one of only a handful of boutiques to stock Dries Van Noten and Paul Harnden. "The products I select are done so with care and chosen for their excellent and distinctive quality of design, fabric, craftsmanship and coherent narrative," says Ruth Spence on Envoy's growing stockpile of popular, luxury labels. "We are inspired by the pieces we sell, and we hope you will be too," she continues. Its curated Instagram feed is also worth a scroll...

Why we love it: Entrepreneur and designer Niamh McCoy established her store in the depts of the recession. The challenge for Niamh, apart from surviving the crash, with a brand new business was to change attitudes towards how women dressed at the time. "During a recession people tend to be more conservative in their dress. For us this was a challenge, we needed attitudes to change for Gallery 9’s aesthetic to work," Niamh says. "We had a small but loyal customer base that grew year-on-year that helped us to build a strong visual identity," she continued. Gallery 9 is for both the sophisticated, confident shopper and the woman who wants to invest in wardrobe staples that have longevity. And with brands like Victoria Beckham, Joseph and Carven, that's pretty easy. The boutique continues to grow and invest, and e-commerce is next on the horizon for the boutique.

Why we love it: Muse boutique, a stylish independent store and online luxury retailer, was founded in 2006 by Clodagh Roche and Laura Gallagher. Since its opening, the boutique has established itself as one of the most successful independent womenswear retailers. This is, in part, because of the variety of stock available, but the store's stylish and affordable range of homewares is what sets Muse apart from other independent boutiques. Infuse your home with a crisp, fresh scent from Soy-based candles and decorate your favourite corner with dainty little trinkets.

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why we love it: Les Jumelles was founded in 1997 by twin sisters Mary and Margaret Gallagher. The boutique was the result of an ambition to bring more mid-range and high-end luxury design to the west of Ireland, in a unique and personal setting. Today, Les Jumelles is a destination store packed with international labels including Acne, No 21, Moncler and Alexander Wang. The Gallagher sisters also stock exclusive perfume from Molecule and Connock of London, as well as luxury scarves from Falerio Sarti, Fabiana Filippi, Transit, Ciara Silke and Schumacher. So what's it like working with your twin sister? "Both of us have hectic lives, and juggling both family life and work life can be a challenge," says Mary. "Luckily, we are very close as twin sisters, so there is a lot of compromising and teamwork involved. The passion for Les Jumelles gets us through any tough challenge that comes our way," she finished.

Why we love it: Hidden snug in the Ballincollig Town Centre in Cork, Bluefig boutique is a community-driven fashion hub for local makers as well as international labels. What's brilliant about Bluefig is that it has struck a delicate balance by attracting both young women in their 20s, as well as the more mature and self-assured shoppers in their 40s and beyond. It's glamorous but very wearable for day-to-day. They regularly post notices of mid-season sales to their Instagram too, so get following them.

Why we love it: The newly opened  Galway Designers Studio House, is the love-child of Gayle Poppers and Ann Petrov. Barely one year old, this little piece of sartorial heaven on Ireland's west coast is worth a road trip (just for the breath-taking views alone!). Despite being less than one year old, owners Poppers and Petrov have driven the business forward by engaging with their customers online as well as in person: "our business has mainly grown through the use of social media. We are very active, daily, and our following is growing constantly. It plays a huge part in modern marketing and building awareness about what's happening in the business. You need to be savvy with social media to grow in business these days, definitely," says Gayle Poppers. The dainty space is filled with lots of one-offs, handmade and unique pieces. The creative duo takes pride in supporting local makers and doers and will stock locally-made produce where possible.

Why we love it:Now in its 15th year, Kimono boutique is something of a boutique veteran. With locations in Newcastle West, Co. Limerick and Charleville, Co. Cork, Kimono is aimed at the fashion conscious working woman looking for something classical but edgy and a little bit quirky. Since being established in 2003 by Ailish Mullane, Kimono has grown and matured into being one of the defining innovative and creative fashion destinations in the south west of Ireland. When asked about her favourite part of her job, Ailish Mullane replied, "My favourite part of the job is seeing a totally satisfied customer. I love meeting customers who've bought something from me ten seasons ago. It's a testament to the quality of our labels and I am privileged to be working in an industry that I'm very passionate about".

CLICK HERE to vote for your favourite boutique outside of Dublin

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