#ShopIrish Spotlight: Susan Hunter Lingerie is a Dublin stalwart of luxury and service
Supporting Irish business is a passion of ours at Image, and it’s easy with so many entrepreneurial and innovative Irish businesses to buy from. From now until Christmas we are highlighting Irish businesses or business people we’re excited about. Today it’s Susan Hunter Lingerie, a shop that has been lifting the women of Ireland, figuratively and literally, for 36 years.
What is your name, and what is your business?
Susan Moylett, Susan Hunter Lingerie
How long have you been in business?
Susan Hunter has been open for 36 years now. I opened the shop on the 26th June 1984, and I am still there.
And what was your mission from the outset?
To provide quality lingerie, with the emphasis on natural fibres, cotton, silk, cashmere, linen…and more silk. In 1984, there were not many great quality lingerie stores in Dublin. I wanted women to be able to feel special and luxurious every day in their underwear and I wanted that to be affordable for most.
I wanted my customers to be able to shop in a friendly, private space where there is no judgement and lots of help.
Of what part of your business are you most proud?
I am delighted that my shop has thrived for 36 years of course, but the thing I am most proud of is what I see in women when they go out the door with a Susan Hunter purchase. They are usually more confident than when they came in.
I genuinely can improve a woman’s silhouette and affect how good she looks in her clothes. It’s not rocket science; it’s great quality lingerie, fitted properly bringing out the best in women, and their shape.
Who are your business heroes?
I am a huge fan of the work of the women behind Grafton Architects. Shelly McNamara and Yvonne Farrell have been quietly taking over the world of design, not only in Ireland but internationally too. They love structure as much as I do! As a lover of design, shape and quality, I really appreciate their work.
I also admire Miuccia Prada hugely. Not only did she totally revitalise her grandfather’s business, but she is also now relaunching her nylon bags of the 1990s for a new audience. She is an interesting woman – a mime artist, a paid-up member of the Communist party and champion of women’s rights in seventies Milan. I admire interesting women who are multi-faceted.
The British/Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid. The UK Guardian described her as the “Queen of the Curve” – I can identify with that description! She improved spaces all over the world from China to the UK Olympic site. My original qualification was in Interior Design and so I appreciate her visual style and broader picture aesthetic. She was so talented. It showed in her proposed work, and with her use of imaginative and colourful paintings, many she did herself.
Senator Lynn Ruane is another personal hero. I went back to college as a mature student myself and so can appreciate and understand the challenges of her decision to return to education. Not only did she go back to college, she excelled in everything she did there and now represents Trinity as a senator. Our only limits are the ones we set ourselves.
How have you found the last six months?
Professionally, the last few months have been very challenging. Our website really took off, when
shopping online was suddenly the only way to purchase and order. That was a plus. However, as my shop was closed, that gain was pretty quickly negated. It’s hard to buy quality lingerie online and the service I offer, measuring and advice, can’t be replicated online.
I was concerned about my staff – how were they faring and also my lovely customers, particularly my more vulnerable ones.
Personally, I am lucky to be happy in my relationship. and enjoyed spending time at home. I enjoyed the slower pace of life. I walked a lot and instead of walking at speed to my shop, I took time to notice all the details of my surroundings. I even snapped some stylish photos on my phone of graffiti, lock gates, door knockers and other designs that took my fancy. The novelty of not having to work, especially on a Saturday was, dare I say it, not bad. It was a lesson that was forced upon me but I quickly adapted to!
What keeps you positive?
I am lucky to be fortunate in lots of areas of my life. My family, my business, my curiosity, and my interest in what is happening around me. That keeps me positive in the main. I am open to the world and so positive towards all that it brings. My husband is a great sounding board and we both appreciate what we have which again keeps us positive.
Customers who like what I do and have been coming to me for years also keep me upbeat. I really appreciate their support. I have been through two recessions, the economic crash of 2008 and now Covid – If I wasn’t positive, I would have closed my doors long ago.
What new perspective (if any) have you gained from 2020?
My attitude to time has changed. Everything moved slower during lockdown, so I mark my day with different activities – my morning walk, my evening read. I am enjoying the down time and the restful headspace. I have a new view on listening to my body – mentally checking for Covid symptoms and appreciating my good health.
I have a new perspective on mental health too – it can affect us all in this situation so, thanks to lockdown, I’m more appreciative of how nature can lift our spirits. I enjoy my walks and the urban landscape of Dublin 6.
I have a fresh outlook on my business too. I did a lot of advanced planning but, I have realised that in retail now, things change so fast, you need to be able to make quick and impactful decisions. In the future, I need to combine the new ways of doing business with the benefits of online with the previous hands-on service and advice. That’s my new challenge.
Best/worst moment from 2020?
We had a new baby in our extended family this year and I love babies. Babies always bring love and joy and hope and this gorgeous one brought all of this to us. My niece is a great Mum and it’s wonderful to see it. You can’t beat a cuddle and the smell of a new baby.
The worst moment was closing my shop door in March. I really wanted to stay open – I like working and being on my shop floor, so it was a real gut wrench to close the door and not know when it would re-open.
I am aware too that this is only business and that my family and close friends were fit and healthy. Had that not been the case, I really would have something to complain about.
How will you celebrate the holidays this year?
This Christmas I think we will all be kind to ourselves and each other. I plan to eat too much chocolate and lie on the sofa. I did a little of this during lockdown but for Christmas, it will be guilt free.
I have some great books that I plan to catch up on. Reading is the afternoons when I am usually working is pure luxury. Architectural Digest has a new coffee table book on A Century of Style. I think it has my name on it.
Another Irish business you want to shine a spotlight on?
All the great stores in the Westbury Mall. There is nowhere else in Ireland (or the UK, or even mainland Europe) where there is such a collection of delicious shops. All the shops are ‘owner-occupied’. You will meet the owners when you call in and get the chat and the advice from them all.
Each store is a gem of interesting items, and each completely different. The choices are fabrics, cashmere, perfumes, gloves, artworks, jewellery (made in situ!), linens and lingerie. The Westbury Mall has truly become a destination now for gorgeous things.
Related: #ShopIrish Spotlight: McPadden is a new knitwear brand with a mission to make people smile
Related: #ShopIrish Spotlight: Moyee Coffee Ireland is radically good coffee with radical impact
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