Cork boutique that resells designer labels marks 40 years in business

This year marks 40 years since a Cork boutique selling new and nearly new designer labels opened in Cork. JENNIFER HORGAN talks to the owner about how business has evolved
Cork boutique that resells designer labels marks 40 years in business

Teresa Collins and Ramona Bilcu at Naphisa, Cook Street, Cork. Pictures: Dan Linehan

RETAIL therapy isn’t what it used to be. Few of us can buy new clothes these days without contemplating the impact of fast fashion on our planet.

Fewer still can afford new clothes that last a lifetime – sustainable fabrics and designer cuts often come with a hefty price tag.

But fret not Cork fashionistas, Naphisa, a treasure trove in the centre of Cork city, has the answer to all your fashion woes, offering a boutique service, a heart-warming individual shopping experience, and mouth-watering designer clobber at affordable prices.

 Teresa Collins holding a Christian Dior blazer.
Teresa Collins holding a Christian Dior blazer.

Naphisa claims to sell the world’s best designer brands for less. It’s second-hand so there’s no guilt involved.

You’re not adding to the problem. Your purchase is likely to last a lifetime, so if anything, you’re contributing to the solution. These designer looks won’t tire after a season or two. And on top of all that, if you’ve invested in good pieces in the past, you can turn your existing wardrobe into cash.

Think of it as an exchange, from one style guru to another!

What’s not to love? You can clear out your wardrobe and give yourself a fresh look without spending a penny. You might even end up making a profit!

Where to find Naphisa?

Now, this is a little less straight-forward, especially if, like me, you struggle to tell the difference between the streets off Oliver Plunkett Street.

The women outside the pink doorway of the shop on Cook Street.
The women outside the pink doorway of the shop on Cook Street.

Top tip: look out for a bright pink door on the Patrick Street side of Cook’s Street. Other than the pink door, the shop does little to announce itself. There’s a modest sign and a plant on either side. Said pink door leads you up some steps, which end on a little piece of retail heaven.

Seriously though, blink and you might miss it.

But trust me, it’s worth the effort of looking. 

The moment you open those doors you’ll find yourself embraced by Naphisa’s ambience: gentle music, pleasant lighting, soft carpets. There’s no rush inside, no bright lights or neon bargain rails, no over-burdened hangers.

But there’s absolutely no shortage of goodies. It’s the perfect spot for a new dress for a special occasion. It’s like falling into a kaleidoscope of timeless style and glamour.

All the big hitters are here: Chanel, Gucci, Prada, YSL, Fendi, Alexander McQueen, Moncler, Max Mara, Rixo, Victoria Beckham, Isabel Marant… There’s no doubt about it, Naphisa is a feast for any fashion savvy shopper.

And then there’s the bags. And the shoes. These are like gold dust, and the most sought after (Chanel, Gucci, Prada, YSL, Mulberry) don’t last long on the shelves.

If you have one of these gathering dust at home, why not trade up? Make space in your wardrobe for a different bag or different shoes - whilst turning your wardrobe into cash – put a pep in your step for Spring.

How it all started

Naphisa is built on community, relying on people who love style and can afford to spend money on it. Its nearly new designer stock comes from all over Ireland.

Teresa Collins and Ramona Bilcu at Naphisa, which is 40 years in business. Picture: Dan Linehan
Teresa Collins and Ramona Bilcu at Naphisa, which is 40 years in business. Picture: Dan Linehan

Its owner Teresa Collins has established a loyal following during her 40 years of business.

“A lot of our suppliers are friends now. The shop began from just a handful of women and then those women connected us with other friends around the country. 

"I also owe much of my success to the wonderful women who worked in the store over the decades and of course our fabulous suppliers. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Teresa started off in 1982, leasing a smaller premises on Oliver Plunkett Street for just two days a week.

She’s the perfect advertisement for the place: immaculately dressed, restrained, glamourous.

Close to the heart

Teresa considers herself very lucky to work in a job she continues to love. She’s passionate about clothes and wants to run an ethical business without compromising the luxury customer experience.

The shop has spawned many costumer friendships too, with women of all ages from Cork and beyond visiting regularly and interacting with each other ever since Naphisa began.

I visited the shop on two occasions and each time Teresa salutes her costumers by name. It’s more like a village shop than a city outlet. For me, this is what gives Naphisa its competitive edge.

Evolving Industry

Teresa Collins has seen a lot of change down the years.

“Back in the 1980s, Cork women bought what they wanted. Now people buy what they need. It’s a very changed atmosphere.”

But Teresa explains how this difference also provides a unique market for her shop. People’s desire to protect the planet is having a real impact on the industry.

“I hear young women chatting now about the environment; they have pacts and agreements not to buy anything new for a month, maybe even for a year. And with the quality of our stock, they can still get beautiful, timeless pieces.”

Ramona Bilcu with a Burberry bag at Naphisa, Cook Street, Cork. 
Ramona Bilcu with a Burberry bag at Naphisa, Cook Street, Cork. 

With 40 years of tradition and innovation, Naphisa as you find it today is a perfect blend of old and the new, the traditional and the modern.

Its tucked away, old-world vibe only adds to its appeal but it’s also online for anyone who can’t get there in person. This lovely marriage of experience and innovation is embodied in the two women you’ll have the good fortune to meet inside: owner Teresa is accompanied by her younger, tech-savvy associate Ramona Bilcu. The Naphisa website, designed by Teresa’s son Paul and Noise Agency, is maintained by glamorous Bilcu, who uploads pictures of new stock every day, as well as updating their Instagram and Facebook pages.

The warmth between the two women is palpable.

Trying something on, you feel like you’re in the company of family or friends. The women certainly share your enthusiasm when you make a find.

“Yes, that’s beautiful,” Ramona calls out when I show her a coat I’ve found in the back.

“It came in yesterday,” adds Teresa.

“It’s such a classic fit, I love it,” Ramona adds.

Our haul

So, can I tell you how I did on my latest visit?

Well, I picked up a coat from L.K Bennett with the tags still on at 40% of its cost price. I bagged a pair of Reiss black trousers for €49. I also picked up a beautiful silk long-sleeved top for €24. It’s the kind of top I never have – casual but smart, with a lovely finish and buttons down the back.

My friend bought a dress for €80 and put a deposit on a coat for life. They were happy to accept €50 and will keep the coat for her until she has the money to spare. There are no cold terms and conditions. This flexibility adds to the shop’s approachability and charm. If you’re looking for charity shop prices, you’re in the wrong place, but you’re likely to find something worth that stretch in budget. It’s not one of those sparce boutiques you’d feel too embarrassed or broke to enter.

If you’re in the position to splash more significant cash, you’ll also find plenty to browse.

Part of me is hoping this shop stays pretty hush hush. It feels like Cork’s best kept secret. But hey, I’m feeling generous. Enjoy!

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