The Georges Street Arcade has long been the domain of Dublin’s young folk, with stalls selling temporary green hair dye, Bettie Page postcards and rockabilly shoes. So it makes perfect sense as the site for a 24-year-old style queen and entrepreneur to open her very first shop. But how has Ailbhe Stafford, boutique Beaux Bows, pulled the whole thing off? The answer is a curious mix of grown-up business talk, party dresses and one-of-a-kind designer hobby horses. We sit her down for a chat to find out more..
First off, when did the idea of Beaux Bows take shape? Did years of working in retail not put you off?
The idea of Beaux Bows came about last October. I suppose working in retail for a couple of years didn’t really put me off, it actually drove me. I learned so much and really developed who I was and what I loved doing, and that was being surrounded by pretty things and like minded people! I wanted to have something I could call my own and it seemed a logical step for me to open my own boutique.
What obstacles did you encounter in setting the shop up, and how did you overcome them?
My age was probably the biggest obstacle. As I’m twenty four, people immediately think that I’m too young and therefore don’t have anything to offer. With certain letting agents, I’d call for information and they’d turn their noses up at me. Eventually my Dad suggested that he stand in for me. It’s sad that people still think like this, young people should be encouraged to take the leap of entrepreneurship.
Is Beaux Bows an extension of your personal style? What do you look to for inspiration? Is there a distinct Beaux Bows kind of girl?
I’m most comfortable in a pretty dress, so in a way it is an extension of myself. Bows have always been my trademark, I feel a bit naked when I don’t have one in my hair! I’m really inspired by the fashion and music of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, eras that seem to be so full of glamour but also have major historical importance. I guess, a Beaux Bows girl isn’t afraid to be feminine, pop a bow in her hair and take pride in her own style.
You stock some really great pieces by upcoming (or, in Chupi’s case, quite established) young Irish designers. Do you know most of the designers themselves?
Dublin is so small you’re always meeting people who enjoy the same things as you do. I’ve known Chupi for a while, as a good friend of mine worked for her in Topshop and I always loved her stuff. Salty Philip is another brand I also stock. Her stuff is amazing; all of her cottons are organic and her beautiful dresses are recycled chiffon. I really admire her vision and it’s very reasonable as well! The day the shop opened I was introduced to her by friends of mine. Canter Canter is the other label I stock. These hobby horses are the only non-clothes thing I sell, they’re all handmade by one girl and have their own names and identities. People fall in love with them and I’m always really sad to say goodbye!
The Georges St Arcade is such a well-loved landmark; was being part of Dublin’s subculture heritage important to choosing a location? Were you intimidated opening up shop there?
I also hold a very special place in my heart for the Arcade! I remember going there when I was fifteen with my friends, spending hours in Simon’s Café with one cup of tea between five of us! It’s so beautiful during the Summer, too, it’s so laid back. The area was constantly in the back of my mind, so when the spot became available in the Arcade I was very enthusiastic about it. I was quite lucky because I’ve worked there before and have close friends who work there too, so the transition from working in the Arcade to actually having a shop there was quite easy.
Where do you see the shop heading in future? Will the style change, or the stock vary?
Ooh hard question! But it makes me really excited too- I have so many plans for Beaux Bows! The next step will be opening upstairs, which will hopefully happen after the Summer. The shop changes and evolves every day, it’s all very exciting but I’m just taking each day as it comes and enjoying every experience that comes with it!
Join http://www.facebook.com/BeauxBows, or visit the shop at 21/22 George’s Street Arcade
Originally published in Totally Dublin