“You want the area to be successful, but there is always a bad side to it”

After 28 years, Harlequin Vintage of Castle Market, behind George’s Arcade, has closed down the shop and made the move online. The Liberty speaks to the owner of Harlequin vintage about her time in the shop and the new website.

As Dublin changes yearly, it’s not unusual for us to bid farewell to and welcome new businesses into our city. Just recently we said our final goodbyes to an institution in Dublin fashion, The Harlequin.

The Liberty sat down with owner Fiona Smyth to talk about the shop and its move to being an online store.  

“We opened in 1993 – myself and my mum opened it up together,” Smyth says.

“Mum had run multiple vintage businesses before this one under different names. I was quite young so this was my first big thing,” she says.   

“We were treated like a bit of a landmark in the city. It was a bit like when someone dies” 

Fiona Smyth, owner of the harlequin vintage

Their location right beside Grafton Street and George’s Arcade made the shop accessible to all. 

“Vintage shops tend to be destination shops – we got more of a main street appeal. But it wasn’t the area it is now. There was still a lot of wholesalers around the street when we opened.”

Harlequin vintage has always been a staple of the Dublin vintage scene, whether Smyth realised it or not. “You don’t realise how much people appreciated us, and how we were treated like a bit of a landmark in the city.

“It was a bit like when someone dies,” Smyth laughs. When it was announced on Instagram that the shop was closing there was an outpouring of grief and support from many, including Fontaines D.C. and Simone Rocha.  

When the pandemic hit, Smyth was forced to go online to due to the government restrictions. Now with the shop closing down the entire business has moved online.  

Photo Courtesy of The Harlequin Vintage Shop – New shop website

“We had a website before, but it was very basic. It’s nowhere near as expensive as it used to be to set a website up.” By setting up the site, Harlequin is now able to reach customers not only outside of Dublin, but anywhere in the world: “It’s nice to be able to be available to people 24/7, it’s very rewarding.”  

Over recent years, we’ve seen the closure of a lot of small businesses and bars in Dublin.  The gentrification of Dublin can be seen in many places. “You want the area to be successful, but there is always a bad side to it. It’s a vicious cycle in many ways.”

In every street in Dublin, there’s always a story to tell. Smyth told us about the best collection of clothes she’s ever seen go through the shop. “There was stuff we got in from the old Italian ambassador’s wife. All the clothes were Pucci style, amazing silks. It was rare that we get to meet the people the clothes come from. It was very emotional for all of us.”

“I must have a photographic memory because I remember the pieces people bought when they came into the shop wearing them,” Smyth jokes. The Harlequin has had many visitors over the years, including The Kelly Family and even Debbie Harry.  

The owner, Fiona Smyth – Photo courtesy of The Harlequin Vintage

Vintage clothing is becoming more popular due to its sustainability. More people are becoming planet conscious so shopping second hand is a perfect solution to the issue of fast fashion.  

“When we opened up, we were one of the few shops doing vintage,” said Smyth. Vintage clothing has become extremely popular over the past few years. Teens are now trawling through charity shops and sites like Depop and Etsy to find the perfect one-of-a-kind-piece. 

“Each vintage shop has its own brand, it’s own feel. Our shop was always approachable to everyone.”

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