For my 21st birthday I came to Dublin on an ‘I’m not doing anything for my 21st help this will expose how pathetic I am’ panic, with a long-term best friend who’s also always keen to travel. Like many of my ventures abroad, then, this began as some sort of ‘maybe I should check this off/be doing something with my time’, but resulted in so much more. We were walking off a stinging Irish Coffee around Temple Bar when we spotted a tall, crooked pink building tucked down one of the side streets, and had to go check it out.
It was on my actual birthday – the dreary-old-fourth-of-jan – that we walked into Lucy’s Lounge and I instantly felt inspired. The winter holidays always augment my future-focused fears and feelings of hopelessness, like there’s one drab life trajectory ahead of me and anything else is unrealistic, but walking into spaces like Lucy’s lifts my spirits. Whenever I get that sense of making any kind of artsy discovery I suddenly remember the whole other world out there, which, maybe, in-tune with hitting a new age-benchmark, I could be part of.
Maybe Lucy’s Lounge and I instantly got on because it’s almost as eclectic as me! The top floor is a tattoo parlour, then below is a, quirky, arty, haphazard space that Dee – Lucy’s Lounge Manager – rents out for AirBnB. Whilst wandering through the ground floor handmade shop (the owners of whom have a gorgeous doggo), we saw the sign ‘Lucy’s Vintage Wonderland’ beckoning us to the basement, and the name could not be more apt.
The basement really is a wonderland – pieces from the everyday to the fantastical (I’m talking theatrical costumes to kimonos, swimsuits to bodices and bras) shout at you from every corner in an overwhelming cocktail of colours. No inch is left bare – the walls are a postmodern art exhibit – barbies in glass bottles swing from the ceiling and collected items from college graduate exhibitions and local fares straddle the boundaries of object/artwork/everyday ‘thing’ in the weirdest and most wonderful way. It was like walking back into my A-level art sketchbook but reinvigorated and mixed in with FASHION.
So, after spotting a sign offering ‘work experience’, I met Dee, a warm and easy-flowing conversationalist. A chat about my studies and hobbies (camera was in hand), and she offered me the chance to come back and do a photoshoot. Of course, being me, I booked this during my study leave for May exams and jetted off feeling apprehensive and stupid whilst all my friends were having birthday meals and end-of-year celebrations back home.
When I arrived 12pm in the rain (thinking this looks kinda like a plastic fairytale ‘crooked house’ my cousin locked me in when I was 7), nerves flew away entirely, and were replaced by my new BFF: Imposter syndrome. The following conversation I had with Dee – generously accompanied by tea and a chocolate biscuit – marked another moment in recent years where I just couldn’t believe this is really my life. We sat in her AirBnB discussing me, her, the shop and its definition – we made an interesting turn onto the word ‘vintage’ itself, how ‘second-hand’ has kinder connotations, but branding calls, whilst Dee’s persistence and business ability stunned me, staying strong for 30 years in competition with the Urban Outfitter’s just opposite and multiple vintage shops that had sprung up and fizzled out. Amongst thoughts of: ‘this is the coolest room I’ve ever been in’, and ‘why do people match their furniture? Clashing is so much better’, my conscience kept on calling ‘appreciate this’, because learning about fashion, ethics, art, and interior design first-hand whilst seated in an undefined creative-living-space, was a bit too cool to be true.
One huge aspect I adore about Lucy’s Lounge is its morality. Dee is genuinely passionate about making the shop ethical, accessible, and welcoming. I was shocked by how reasonable their prices are (denim jackets for 10 euro! I paid 40 in Berlin), and the relationships every member of staff had with each other and with customers was a humbling, and all-too-rare thing to witness.
The people I met in the following few days were inspiring. The next lady to walk into the room had an amazing garish-but-gorgeous 60s style feat. blinding-reflective boots, and surprised me by how open, bubbly, and warm she was for someone I found so intimidating. She worked partly in the shop but was also writing for a music magazine, and when she asked what I study and I played my favourite card : ‘Philosophy and Art History’, her response told me I had found my people: ‘Great combination’. (Beats the usual: ‘Oh it’s not Maths! But how will you become a banker?!’ and relieves my endless anxiety a lil’ bit: maybe creative aspirations aren’t totally fairytale.)
I also had the pleasure of working with Dandellion (new babyname inspo), who worked at Lucy’s and also DJ’d, and is one of the kindest people I have ever met. She was persistently sweet, caring, and generous and gave me some genuine and personal advice on everything from careers to partying. My favourite memory is when she’d just make us green tea, in the middle of a working day, and we’d perch on this low stool-thing surrounded by clothes racks having DMCs and hiding away. She was constantly moved by customers’ stories and struggles, and when hugging twice upon leaving, we finished on the joke: ‘it’s hard being too sensitive for life’.
On my final day, I had the pleasure of meeting Dee’s son and fellow philosopher. Alongside an envy-inducing chat about his course at Trinity (they get to study Eastern Philosophy), he reminded me with a sideline on Aesthetics that I knew far less than he did about an exam I had in 5 days time… oops.
On day no.1 Dee said, ‘let’s throw you in the deep end!’, and introduced me to another new friend – the fabulous Mr. Fabijus. We became such good friends that he ended up writing a piece for me on LABEL press: check it out here.
We clicked quickly and he was instantly easy to work with – pose after pose flowed flawlessly and I practically just had to press the button, he created the shots himself. (If you’re interested in following his modelling career, check out his Insta here.)
I also got to know Charlotte – a fellow backpacker with as much wanderlust as me and an amazing attitude to life. She never stopped smiling and posing, making the whole shoot just fun, whilst her picks were brave and gorgeous. An inspiring woman – she’s currently travelling solo for 6 months, but I’m desperately hoping we meet on the road, again, someday! We chatted a bit about a visit I could pay her in Peru, and I really hope she knows I was serious.
Daniela’s style was flawless – she pulled off frills and polkadots with elegance, turning what could easily slide into china-doll-territory into the look of a vintage cover girl, modernised with bold, breathtaking makeup. I asked her how she achieved this and she modestly alluded to tutorials. The poses just flowed with style, class, and some adorable, quirky character. Some of the angles and shadows she created were mesmerising, but it was the moments I captured her laughing and enjoying herself that I found most special. One wonderful thing I took from this blooming friendship is that she sometimes jets over to Scotland!
In a long (and… perhaps drunken – Dublin’s night scene is great, you should check it out – I ended up on a boat!) Instagram story I tried to explain how hard it was to sum up this lil’ trip without becoming an all-out ‘gap yah’ stereotype. But this was one hell of a week.
Partly: I love this city, it’s potentially my favourite in the world. It’s not too small still homely, with banging clubs but sweet little pubs and the friendliest people. It’s cute and warm and welcoming without ever being dull, it’s lively without being shallow, isolating, or overwhelming. There’s an edgy vintage scene and easy-to-access vegan bites for milennial postergirls like me, but there’s history, art, and tons of culture, too.
From Lucy’s Lounge specifically I feel so thankful to have met such inspiring and kind people – successful and passionate but still so sensitive, with all the right values at heart, particularly in an industry notorious for exclusion and elitism. I like to hope I’ve made a friend in them for life and that I can come back to help out again, one day.
One of the best bits? They paid me in CLOTHES.