Thursday 18 January 2018

Setting the fashion trends for 20 years

By Amy Lewis

Vincents of Wexford Staff Noreen Thomas, Pauline McGrath, Karen Culleton and Lillian Clowery.
Vincents of Wexford Staff Noreen Thomas, Pauline McGrath, Karen Culleton and Lillian Clowery.
The Vincent's of Wexford premises in Selskar.

President of Vincent's of Wexford Kitty Hynes is often asked by customers what trends are in fashion.

However, for the Wexford resident and founder of the popular charity store, mainstream trends are not what it's all about.

'We don't set trends. We follow them,' she laughed.

This refusal to follow the crowd has been central to the store since it was set up in Selskar two decades ago. The store has its beginnings in Wexford town, where a small group of people first came together to collect and distribute secondhand clothes. Realising that this idea wasn't catching on, they decided to put a small price on garments and sell them for charity. They set up shop in the Vincent de Paul hall in Francis Street and customers began trickling in. As business grew, they relocated to Peter's Square and then to Selskar where they have been based for 20 years.

Kitty was the driving force behind the shop from the beginning. Her late brother Kevin had been involved with the society for 62 years and it was his influence that encouraged her to give something back. She has now been a member of the society for over 40 years. For 20 of these, she has not only worked to keep the Wexford shop doors open, she has managed to raise some vital funds for the charity. Since it was established, over a million euro has been raised for local people in need.

With their 20th anniversary looming, sales are going strong. However, this wasn't always the case. When they first came on the scene, charity shops weren't in vogue and many people wouldn't consider shopping in one. According to store manager Lillian Clowery, this has all changed.

'I find that it has gotten much busier. There is a different clientele,' she explained. 'People wouldn't shop there before because they had a certain idea about the place, That's gone now.'

Lilian puts the change in attitude down to the recession, saying that it encouraged people to shop in stores like theirs in an effort to save money.

'Then when they did shop here, they realised it wasn't as bad as they thought,' she laughed.

With pairs of Christian Louboutin shoes going for €60 as opposed to €450 and Elizabeth Emanuel fur coats going for a fraction of their original price, the experience doesn't sound bad at all.

'We try to keep the standard up,' explained Lillian. 'We only put out the best items and try to make it a nice experience for people.'

In recent years, Vincent's of Wexford have also set up a furniture store that operates every second Friday out of their depot.

'People get very good bargains there because furniture can be expensive,' explained Lillian.

With a growing customer base and a popular furniture store, volunteer staff at Vincent's of Wexford are kept busy day-in day-out. The 32 volunteers work in two hour shifts and according to Kitty, the success of the store is down to them.

'The help that they give us, you just couldn't put a price on it,' she said.

Wexford People

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