Cleo is an independent shop, located on the ground floor of a Georgian town house on Dublin’s Kildare Street, that sells clothes and a range of gift items. Cleo specializes in clothes and hand-knits made from natural Irish fibres such as: wool, linen and tweed.
Unusually, among the roll call of Dublin’s independent shops, Cleo has been around for a very long time. It’s a family business that the late Kay Ryan, the grandmother of Sarah Joyce the current owner, established in 1936. Initially the shop sold children’s clothes but in the post-war years Sarah’s grandmother realized there was an increasing number of tourists, especially Americans, visiting Dublin and she started to stock hand-knitted sweaters from the Aran Islands for the new influx of visitors to buy as souvenirs of their visits to Ireland. In the seventy-six years of its existence the business has sailed through choppy economic times and various recessions but has survived and thrived.
Cleo features, as a place to shop in Dublin, in guide books to Ireland yet I suspect that there are many people living in Dublin who have never been in the shop. If you visit you might be tempted, following a cursory look around, to decide it’s not your type of shop. This would be an incredible shame as it’s a gem of a place where the stock is multi-layered and you really need to spend a bit of time taking it all in. There are clothes to suit all ages – the colourful children’s knitted items are especially delightful – and it’s a great place to pick up small unique hand-crafted gifts.
Sarah commissions a lot of Cleo’s stock from crafts people or small enterprises dotted about the country and the reminder she buys in from about sixteen designers including the Inis Meáin Knitwear Company and Glynis Roberts. The shop stocks: jumpers, scarves, skirts, blankets, capes, gloves, iPad covers, hats, bags, blouses, cushions, toys, Christmas decorations …
I only every write about shops that I truly like, they have to be places where I am prepared to put my money where my mouth is – by that I mean shops where I am so attracted by what they sell that I inevitably end up buying something. I bought a tweed and felt penguin when I was in Cleo a few weeks ago see here and yesterday I bought a felt Santa Claus to add to my Christmas decoration collection. I was very tempted by the buttons made from six thousand-year old bog oak – I resisted purely because I don’t have anything to sew them on to.