From lab coat to suit coat — Eddie Mullins, managing director of Fitzgerald Menswear, did everyone a favor when he decided to ditch the lab and head straight for men’s fashions.
It wasn’t long after Eddie started a course in Applied Biology that he tailored his career into something he was passionate about — menswear.
Perched on St Patrick’s Street, Cork, Fitzgerald’s is more than just a shop — founded in 1860 as a family-run business, the name is steeped in local retail history. Eddie Mullins is the successor to Joe Fitzgerald, who retired at the age of 75, leaving Eddie with some very big boots to fill.
“I’ve put my own stamp on it, whilst still adhering to all the same qualities and heritage that was there before and staying true to its founding principles,” Eddie said.
A shop in which George Bernard Shaw once acquired some of his famously theatrical shirts, Fitzgerald's would also see the 1960s trend in which men's suits changed from bespoke to readymade. The fabric restrictions and more functional styles that were made necessary by World War II prompted an increase in standardised production for all clothing.
Mass production of clothing became more popular and suits, shirts and everything in between were all mass-produced in standard sizes — forever changing how consumers have since made their purchases.
The history of this shop has a huge part to play in its customer loyalty, and COVID didn’t change Fitzgerald’s pledge to maintain quality service and customer satisfaction. Nothing can beat a face-to-face customer experience, but COVID brought an alternative method of customer service, namely click and collect.
Fitzgerald Menswear is now also offering a personal tailoring service: “What used to be a limited tailoring service is now more comprehensive. People can have anything they want in a suit. For example, different colour buttons.”
Before there were limitations on what factories could produce, but now Fitzgerald’s is offering a service giving their customers freedom and choice in the world of fashion. They also have lots of different sizes. “We go up to 5XL, so it’s a good one-stop-shop.”
Don’t be fooled by the age of this shop — as the saying goes ‘with age comes wisdom’ — Eddie is also passionate about sustainability and doing what he can for his customers in more ways than one.
“Sustainability is a big word in our world where brands want to take the plastic out of the product. We’re packaging shirts in paper rather than plastic, we also sell plastic-free belts — we’re looking to reduce plastic too and move away from it where we can, and customers are reacting very well to it.”
Fitzgerald’s also has a repair service; for example, Barbour coats or jackets can be sent away for rewaxing. The store also offers a shoe refurbishment service — moving away from fast fashion and keeping in line with sustainable fashion.
“I’m very conscious of giving the very best of service and we have the best people available in the shop, the finest quality of teams in the country, from the office to the floor who are helpful, professional, and educated. We have fun with it but we’re also very serious about what we do and our customer loyalty is a testament to that.”
It’s obvious it’s not just business for Eddie — it’s everything and everyone that comes with it.
Speaking of Cork’s current renaissance, Eddie is an excited and proud trader of Cork city and what the future has to offer.
“Cork is really on the up — the changes that we see in the buildings, the investment into the city centre, it’s going to be like a renaissance for the city. There’s an emergence of a lot of new restaurants, ethnic food offers, the city is young, vibrant, and unique.”
Eddie fondly recounted a conversation he had with an Italian person living in Cork, when Eddie asked his friend about his experience so far in Cork, he said: “The warmth isn’t in the weather, it’s in the people.”