Romantic and antique enthusiast Valerie Fahy’s new vintage boutique is a haven of authentic finds from the prim and proper Victorian Period to the hedonistic Seventies
Photographed by Christina Higgins
I am wandering through the vibrant town of Skibbereen in West Cork. It’s a Sunday morning in August, and the locals are preparing for the return of the prodigal brothers, Gary and Paul O’Donovan, from the Olympics. Brightly coloured shopfronts applaud their incredible achievement – not only have they placed the Irish rowing team on the map, but they have once again proved how much ‘craic’ we are. In my newfound patriotism, I almost bypass a new boutique on Bridge Street. Apparently, an Olympic win is not the only exciting news brewing in West Cork.
Previously a biomedical scientist, Valerie Fahy opened vintage boutique Liberty & Jasmine in July, choosing the science of fashion over science itself. Starting out with a large private collection including treasured family heirlooms, she is drawn to pieces that tell a story – amongst her most valued items are; her mother’s 1970s wedding dress (which is available to buy as part of Liberty & Jasmine’s new bridal collection), a pastel pink suit made by Irish designer and Grafton Academy graduate Pat Crowley (Jackie Kennedy was a client) and Victorian lace hemmed by her great great grandmother which can be worn as a wrap for a wedding or even the opera. The majority of Valerie’s stock comes from private collections, resulting in some highly unique and authentic pieces from the Victorian period right through to the Eighties. Her parents were both antique enthusiasts, her style icon was her grand aunt Maureen, and she grew up surrounded by all things old. “One of my favourite pieces is a tooled leather bag, which one of my aunts brought back from the States in the late 60s, early 70s – it’s Mexican and has a beautiful floral design in two tone leather.” Fast fashion and its repetitive and unimaginative nature doesn’t appeal to Valerie, who prides herself on giving each piece she sources a new lease of life. “I love the romantic side of wearing vintage – the history behind each individual piece, the thought of who wore it before me and what kind of life they lived. It’s also important to me to be eco-conscious, which is an integral part of investing in vintage.”
Despite only opening this Summer, Valerie’s exceptional eye and devotion to ‘true vintage’ and good quality design (her appreciation of the groovy 60s and 70s also doesn’t hurt) has attracted vintage lovers from far and wide, though none quite as far as ‘Brooklyn’. Yes, Saoirse Ronan is already a fan, having invested in some pieces in August which she felt her stylist would love. A huge supporter of Irish design, Valerie also stocks Skibbereen-based fashion designer Alice Halliday, Regina Tierney’s brand Celtic Fusion, and milliners Deb Fanning and Sanna Isbister (whose artisan hats are made close by in Glengarriff). She loves every piece she stocks, and strives to provide a wide range of larger sizes (which are hard to come by when dealing with vintage). Valerie hopes her romantic haven will become a destination for women who favour quality and individuality when it comes to their wardrobe. Here, I’ve chosen various pieces from the boutique: among them, a 1950s houndstooth coat which came from a private collection – the lady’s aunt was Austrian, lived in Vienna and always wore top quality garments, and two dresses from the States (according to Valerie, America has the best vintage due to their colossal population and excellent storage skills) – a 1960s yellow and grey houndstooth shift dress and a 1980s pink accordion pleated long sleeved gown with a beaded neckline. I don’t know about you, but I’m sold, quite literally – the houndstooth coat is now sitting in my wardrobe. I think of the stylish Austrian lady wandering the streets of Vienna in the freezing cold as I walk down Grafton Street. Valerie would be proud – she’s romantic like that.