Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with Eilís Dillon, of Records & Relics, about the Cork Vintage Map, a unique collaborative initiative between thirteen of Cork City’s specialist retailers.
It seems like such a simple idea, that it must have been hard to come by amid all of its constituent parts. The Cork Vintage Map, released this past month and available at flyer/leaflet stops across the city, brings together the city’s eclectic community of busy vintage traders, from antiquarians, to outfitters and stylists, to record-slingers. Dotted around the city’s side-streets and corners, the Map forms a trail of must-visit locations for avid retro enthusiasts. Eilís Dillon, of Records & Relics on Lancaster Quay, says the project was a while in the works. “It’s something I think a lot of us have been talking about for years, but it never really materialised. There was an event earlier this year by TEDxCorkSalon, called CorkLovesVintage, a lot of us were speaking at it, or in attendance, and it gave us all a very warm fuzzy feeling. We were all chatting about it again, and I decided to make it happen!”
The word “vintage”, of course, makes for a broad church to say the least, with different demographics getting older and appreciating the bits and bobs of the past at different paces, from older, nostalgic crowds, to kids that are well-used to returning trends, reboots and remakes. When attempting to set a definition. “Vintage simply means that the item is at least 25 years old. So, we are talking ’80s, and anything before then.”
Taking in everything from fashion, with the outfitters from Mercury Goes Retrograde and Brocade & Lime among others, to hairdressers and technicians like CHAIR and the Pink Octopus Dreadshop, it makes for an eclectic offering.
Juggling thirteen different outlets’ schedules, blurbs, meeting times, etc. seems like a tall order, before one even gets into aesthetics, specialisation, etc., but Eilís insists the whole thing came together with ease. “It all came together surprisingly smoothly, obviously you are dealing with lots of different businesses, and you want everyone to feel a part of it and equally represented, so the design part was really important. The graphic designer, Pedro, did a great job tailoring each ad to fit the personality of the shop, and the overall theme of the map. The map design itself, I think, is really classy and professional. All the businesses were really positive, and into it, so that made it all quite straightforward.”
Vintage is very much a sector that has established itself in Cork in recent years, with something for everyone presenting itself in the city’s retail spaces. With that being said, given the nature of the economy in recent years, the shops have seen fit to build themselves up on niche trades, rather than attempt to catch the vintage craze that emerged a few years back. In that mindset, the venues have relied upon each other for support. “It’s so important for small businesses to work together, we need to see each other as partners, rather than competitors. We are small fish, if we all swim together we have a chance of competing with the larger, multinational corporations that threaten small businesses. Cork has so many cool little vintage-inspired businesses, we have an opportunity to highlight that and attract consumers, who are looking for something unique and interesting. Our businesses are completely local, all the money remains in the economy, this, in my opinion is so important to sustainable economic recovery. We are also in a unique position, as everything is pretty much a one off piece and so there really is no direct competition.”
Vintage seems to have outlived any perceived bubble or craze in Cork, at least, in terms of fashion and clothes: to what can this be attributed? “Vintage fashion is made to last, it’s a niche market, it’s not a fad. People who buy vintage don’t necessarily follow the latest fashion, they have their own unique style, it is also about nostalgia and stories, appreciation of history. For me it’s very romantic. I like to know about the life a certain object might have led before it got here, or it reminds me of my childhood, or my grandmother. Of simpler times. You can express yourself and be more creative mixing up styles from different eras.”
Closer to home for Eilís is the vinyl boom, which continues unabated. Music plays a big part of the Vintage Map by its nature, with Mother Jones’ Flea Market home to numerous record stalls, and Records & Relics stocking a panoramic range of music on pre-loved wax. Eilís discusses its importance to the traders amid a boom period for records. “Vinyl is our bread and butter. We have noticed a massive increase in sales, and a increasingly varied type of buyer. From students to grandparents! It’s great to see so many people appreciating this format. Vinyl sales have exceeded digital sales this year in the U.K, so we are happy.”
In the run-up to the holiday season, and with more people looking to get out and take care of the presents early to avoid crowds and perhaps have bigger seasonal celebrations than previous years, sales have been on the up. The collaborative strategy has been working. “Sales are increasing, slowly but surely. Nice vibes and happy heads all round!”
It must seem quite odd to be asked about the future when trading in memories and tangible experiences in an increasing market for new ideas and intangibles. But Eilís responds in the positive. “There has already been lots of great collaborations, like Fable in the English Market so hopefully more of the same. It would be great if Cork got a reputation, and well known as a great place for vintage buyers to find treasure, especially when there are so many shops within easy walking distance of each other.”
Find the Cork Vintage Map online at corkvintagemap.com, or physically at participating locations around the city centre.