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October 20, 2017
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Best Kept Secrets

Bow is an independent boutique in Dublin that unites two fashion businesses together under one roof. Photograph by Briana Palma.

A bow is defined as "a knot tied with two loops and two loose ends," but in Dublin it is also the name given to a four-year boutique owned and operated by friends Wendy Crawford and Margaret O'Rourke. The unique store is located on the ground floor of the Georgian-style Powerscourt Centre, an 18th century townhouse that today serves as a shopping centre made up almost entirely of independent retailers. 

Bow MoMuse Wendy's Wardrobe Dublin

Little chalkboard signs around the shop serve to inform customers and 
create a welcoming atmosphere. Photograph by Briana Palma.

Like the object it is named after, this boutique has two loops, so to speak; Crawford's and O'Rourke's individual businesses operate seamlessly and beautifully within the same shop space. Bow stocks O'Rourke's jewellery label MoMuse, as well as a mix of new and vintage clothing and accessories selected by Crawford for her venture, Wendy's Wardrobe. 

Passing through the doorway of Bow is, quite literally, like walking into Wendy's own wardrobe. Crawford says she stocks things that "excite and grab" her - items that she would have in her own home or closet. This fact is confirmed by the black-and-white chequered YMC top that, on this day, can be spotted both on her and on one of the clothing rails in the retail space.

Furthermore, Crawford is responsible for the shop's visual merchandising and its vintage, attic-treasure-chest kind of feeling. The décor includes a pair of khaki green arm chairs decorated with pillows that are for sale; a ladder draped with handbags and scarves; antique wooden boxes containing plush cashmere goods; and little chalkboards that provide information about the shop and its stock.

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"This is what my house looks like - apart from price tags and lots of product everywhere," Crawford admits, laughing. "There are ladders and cabinets and lights and everything is second-hand. It's the only thing that I know how to put together, to be quite honest. I'm sure I could put together a minimalist theme, but it's not what comes out of me naturally at all."

I love [it] when a good customer comes in and you know them by name. You can spend half an hour with them just chatting, and you can really share with them the loveliness of the brands you have...

The aesthetic is consistent throughout, creating a seamless experience for shoppers browsing between the two businesses. Each occupies their own individual spaces divided by a half-wall and a display case, and both women have their own little desk-cum-cash-register-area, with O'Rourke's also serving as a workbench too.

"Most days she's [O'Rourke] sitting there making jewellery from one end of the day to the other," Crawford comments, explaining that her business partner makes all of the items in her MoMuse collection by hand. One of her signatures is using gold-filled materials - these are better quality than gold plated, as one of her chalkboards explains - although she also works with sterling silver, semi-precious stones and Swarovski crystals. O'Rourke's part of the store contains delicate pendants, earrings and bracelets that mix metallic tones with rich colours like coral and sapphire. They range from simple €15 bracelets to statement necklaces that sell for more €100.

On the other side of the partition, and in the front area of the store, is where you will find Crawford's clothing and accessory selections, with vintage and new pieces mixed together; in one display, a pair of emerald green Charles Jourdan shoes found on one of her vintage buying trips to Paris sits right next to the modern and colourful scarves of Electronic Sheep, one of her best selling brands. While the prices range from a €10 shopper bag to a €385 leather and silk dress, Crawford says she does view much of what's in Wendy's Wardrobe as an investment for customers.

When buying for the store, she seeks out quality and lasting styles, such as the London-based brand YMC, which isn't driven by trends. "They'll just work really hard in your wardrobe," Crawford says, "so you might spend more on it, but they'll last you a really long time."

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Also found within Wendy's Wardrobe are the luxurious cashmere goods of Eilis Boyle, one of the original partners of Bow - they originally began in September 2009 as a group of four and, while only two have since continued, Boyle still contributes to the shop. Boyle designs her items, selects the yarns and colours, and produces them with a group of local knitters based in Lucan, Co. Dublin, a town found just beyond the limits of the city.

Margaret O'Rourke MoMuse Jewellery

Half of Bow is occupied by the handcrafted jewellery of MoMuse,
which is the business of Bow co-owner Margaret O'Rourke.
Photograph by Briana Palma.

Although Crawford admits that the organisation structure of Bow might not work for everybody, she says their strategy of sharing costs and providing support has been particularly helpful given that they launched during the recession. She adds that the group, including Boyle, have a "likeminded vision" and utilise each other's strengths to help run the business efficiently. This involves Crawford or O'Rourke - and sometimes both - being in the store, sharing the stories of their products and the concept of Bow with their customers, or simply sitting back and allowing people to browse - another important part of their ethos.

"It's always so much nicer to have face time with people," Crawford says, adding that she recently launched an online shop for Wendy's Wardrobe. "I love [it] when a good customer comes in and you know them by name. You can spend half an hour with them just chatting, and you can really share with them the loveliness of the brands you have. You just can't do that online."

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