Talking Vintage with Fiona Smyth and The Harlequin
The Harlequin is one of Dublin’s longest-running vintage boutiques, nestled on Castle Market in the stylish Creative Quarter.
Founded by Susan Smyth in the 1980s, the boutique caters for everybody and has its own kind of style. Although there are now a lot of vintage shops in the city, at The Harlequin, they offer customers something that little bit different.
The boutique is very well laid out, spans across three floors and offers everything from vintage party dresses, classic t-shirts, footwear and jewellery as well as vintage bridal gowns. Their basement floor is also dedicated to menswear where styles and pieces are easy to find. We sat down with second-generation owner Fiona Smyth to hear more about this wonderful vintage boutique.
Hi Fiona, tell us how did the boutique start?
This shop started 25 years ago by my mum Susan and she’s been working in fashion for a long time. She was involved in the industry beforehand and she took a big interest in fashion. Then she saw a gap in the market as there weren’t a lot of vintage shops around at the time. She used to work the Dandelion Market, the shop was on Fade Street and in George’s Street Arcade before settling in on Castle Market in 1995 – mum’s always been in the area and always based in Dublin.
Where do you source your garments and accessories from?
We source our stock mainly from abroad and notably Europe. Some of it is new, most of it is vintage, it’s really a big mixture of places and we’re always looking around for new stock. Sometimes we pick up pieces from customers coming in, but really, it’s from collecting abroad via wholesale companies selling vintage stock.
And where do you find your jewellery?
Most of the jewellery at The Harlequin would be from abroad, and a few pieces would be Irish vintage. We buy vintage or retro jewellery to match in with what we have, because some pieces are very hard to get.
When it comes to fashion, who or what inspires you?
That’s a hard question! I suppose street fashion would be one, and we’re all kind of influenced by celebrity fashion a little bit too. Personally, I like vintage style, so I’m always gravitating towards that. Old fashion icons like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn – that’s my kind of fashion style.
What kind of clientele do you have at The Harlequin?
It’s a real mixture! In the last few years tourists have become the main customers that come into the boutique, because the city has changed a lot. Nowadays there’s a lot of tourism in Dublin, so there’s a lot more tourists shopping here. There’s a great number of students as well, and they’re really into their vintage fashion and finds.
Sustainability is more important than ever. What’s your outlook on sustainable fashion in Dublin?
I see there is a lot going on and a lot of brands are now trying to use recycled materials. Obviously, fabrics are going to be a lot more valuable in the future and I hope the disposable fashion dies off and that people are interested in investing and buying less and buying better.
I do see there’s a good future in general, not only in Ireland, but also around the whole of the world. In terms of cutting down on the excess use of materials and dyes for the environment, hopefully things are improving.
In The Harlequin, what would be your favourite section or favourite pieces?
It’s hard to say, because there is always a lot of stock coming through. You tend to be more excited about the newer stock that arrives, because you get used to seeing the pieces that are already in the boutique. My favourite section would be the beaded and evening dresses, they’re such interesting pieces. I wouldn’t necessarily be wearing them often, but they are beautiful and very nice to look at in the boutique!
Visit The Harlequin at 13 Castle Market in Dublin 2