Liberties legend lends a vintage hand

Photo Credit : Ávila Vintage.

Wandering through Meath Street market has the ability to transport a weary shopper back in time to the good ol’ days of Dublin. The ghost of community spirit still lurks amongst the walkways and between the stalls, as calls of affection are heard and reciprocated from vendors to regulars.

Among the cacophony of colourful labels, colourful people and the not so colourful building, are lives who have witnessed their city change before their eyes. Somewhat seeming as the final frontier against the vast change that Dublin has seen in the four centuries the marketplace has run.

In a corner of the building, almost obscured as if to filter the curious from the not, sits a small shop ran by an Irish mother, Niamh O’Dwyer and her Italian-born son, Giacomelli O’Dwyer. Ávila Vintage.

An esoteric collection of garments cling to mannequins, from Stone Island to chaotic concoctions involving a geisha dress and a waist coat.

“I was in Italy for 27 years,” Niamh said. “We moved back some years ago, but that’s where we get our inspiration from and also some of our clothes.”

Whilst showing me her wares, Niamh’s son, Giacomelli, moves erratically in an attempt to pack up shop for the day. 

“Mother, at least show him the Stone Island or something,” he appealed. “He doesn’t want to see the dress.”

The halls were empty and a man was waiting at the entrance to the market with a look that read “hurry up”.  A smell of petrol was consistent throughout the building, which gave an authentically Dublin albeit slightly worrying atmosphere.

As any good trader does, Niamh encouraged us to follow the shops social media and browse. She pulls out a laminated slip of paper and holds in in front of her chest for us to see.

The words “Ávila Vintage” sit in the corner in front of older gentlemen in a playfully intimidating fighters pose contrasted with him wearing a white hoodie with the famous “Mona Lisa” painting emblazoned on the front.

Upon closer inspection, the mirror behind this man shows the back of this hoodie. The trademark criss-cross pattern of one of the biggest streetwear brands in the world – Off White. The juxtaposition of the old man in clothing that would be appreciated almost exclusively by those 60 years his junior made for an excellent picture.

Those with a keen eye for fashion would be able to deduce that this particular hoodie was the Overhoodie from the spring/summer 2018 collection, valued at around €500.

“Mr. Fusco,” Niamh said, “such an icon and such a gem in the community, we had to get him involved.”

The man emoting between threatening and light hearted, was Filippo Fusco, founder of the famous “Fusco’s Cafe” on Meath Street, a cornerstone establishment of Dublin 8.

Those with less of an eye for fashion may have noticed that in this picture, Mr. Fusco is mirroring the pose of his younger self with his skin slightly tighter and his hair far more pigmented than his foreground counterpart.

The pose also nodded to his former life as a kickboxer, with that specific picture being from the kickboxing world championship 1987 after winning the European championship the year prior.

“He was a great sport about it,” Niamh said. “It was Giacomelli’s idea and he just ran with it.”

Fusco is equally as renowned for his ability to fight as he is for his ability to fry. In a ring above his chip shop, for many years, he had trained locals.

Time has proven no match for Filipo’s skill as in a 2021 interview with the Liberty, he describes the time he fought six on one to defend his shop at the age of 80.

“I understand that this place is a significant part of the community. I always try to help when people ask me for something because this community has given so much to me,” Mr Fusco said.

Giacomelli walked through his creative process: “We have a passion here, for not only good vintage but god Italian vintage,” he said. “I thought one of the best ways to bring the worlds of the Liberties, of Italy and of Fashion together was to get Fusco in some streetwear”.

Despite the changes that Dublin has seen over the centuries, Meath Street market and its inhabitants continue to provide a vibrant and authentic experience for locals and visitors alike.

They are beacons for tradition but also innovators out of necessity. The heyday of the market is gone, but that does not render them redundant. It provides a medium for the sale of goods and a medium for the infrastructure of a community.

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