Ruth O’Connor catches up with Ireland’s most famous tailor, Louis Copeland, when he visits Cork to survey progress on the new Louis Copeland & Sons shop, which opens this month.
One of Ireland’s most renowned men’s fashion retailers, Louis Copeland’s new store is located in the heart of Cork — a city to which he hopes to bring the signature Louis Copeland & Sons aesthetic across a range of smart casual clothing, and, of course, his trademark tailored suiting.
Copeland was also in town to judge the prize for best dressed man at the Marymount Hospital and Hospice Race Day at Cork Racecourse, Mallow — an award he presented to young Mitchelstown man Aaron O’Brien.
“The style was very good. I think Cork people are very much into fashion and always look great,” says Copeland, otherwise known as Louis Copeland Senior as his son Louis Copeland Junior is also involved in the business. Copeland’s appearance at the racecourse is an indication of his intention to get more involved with Cork and its people. But why Cork and why now?
“Cork is a fantastic city and is so international too,” says the tailor who has dressed many of Ireland’s most stylish men including actors Pierce Brosnan and Richard Harris, sports stars Paul O’Connell and Rob Kearney and Irish presidents — both past and present.
“One of the reasons we decided to open the store is that we have so many people coming up from Cork to visit the Dublin shop,” says Copeland, whose flagship store is on Capel St.
“There are a lot of technology companies in Cork too and as they are not as conservative in their dress codes for work, we will be presenting a more semi-casual look for customers along with providing our usual suits. A lot of people struggle with what ‘smart casual’ or ‘business casual’ actually means so we will be there to advise them on what to wear.
“Where people might associate Louis Copeland & Sons specifically with suits and more suits, the Cork shop will feature a lot of business casual options alongside the suiting and tailoring,” continues Copeland.
“It’s been a bit of a trend for the past five or six years — a trend for softer clothes, more comfortable clothes.”
Fashion to be stocked at the store will include clothing to fit any occasion — from a business meeting to a wedding to dressing for weekend socialising. Here you’ll find trousers by Gant, shirts by Eton, sweaters by Paul & Shark, exquisite leather jackets by Belstaff and shoes by Stemar and Magnanni. The store will also stock the Louis Copeland brand which includes great quality shirts and beautiful jackets, tailored three piece suits, and blazers.
While the six new staff members (a figure Copeland hopes will increase over time) will be on hand to help dress the men of Cork in stylish looks, they will also offer suits made to measure — a process which takes around six weeks.
But, the question is, is style innate or can it be learned? “Some men are simply born with style, but for others, it can be a work in progress. It’s all about making your wardrobe work for you — often with a less is more approach — valuing ‘style over fashion’ and ultimately being comfortable and feeling confident.”
The two-storey retail space will be located in a double-entrance building between Academy St and French Church St, a vibrant part of town.
On the Academy St side, the store will be adjacent to the Crawford Art Gallery and parallel to the popular Opera Lane. On the French Church St side of the shop, visitors can find some of the city’s most popular cafes and restaurants — perfect for refreshments when suit shopping.
“Every day there seems to be new industries opening up in Cork and there is a great buzz around the city,” says Copeland, who has a desire to keep retail in the city buoyant rather than opting to open a store in a shopping centre or mall.
Copeland says he hopes the opening of the shop will enhance retail trade rather than take from the competition: “There are other retailers in the area whom we admire and I always feel that if other shops open up around them it’s good for everybody,” he says. “There’s a lot of talk about parking issues [in city centre locations] and so on but I think the more variety of shops for customers. the better chance there is of getting them into the city.”
And then, of course, there’s the family connection. Copeland’s own father lived and worked in Cork in the 1930s. This is a business which is now in its fourth generation, with both Louis Copeland Senior and Louis Copeland Junior currently running the business. The grandfather of Louis Copeland Senior, Hyman Coplan, emigrated from Lithuania and settled in Ireland in the early 1900s. He married a woman called Harriot McCarthy and changed his surname to Copeland.
The couple went on to have two children — Louis and Rachel — and opened a tailoring shop on Capel St in Dublin. The young Louis then went to live in Cork where he worked with Ben Dunne Senior in Roches Stores before Dunne went on to establish Dunnes Stores on Patrick St in the 1940s. Louis later returned to Dublin, taking over the family business and renaming it Louis Copeland & Sons — a name which has now become synonymous with style in Ireland.
For the current generation of the family, opening this shop in Cork is akin to coming full circle: “My father would be very proud we are taking up residence in the heart of the city centre,” says Louis Copeland Senior. “He often shared fond memories of the time he spent living and working in Cork — so for us, as a family and a business, we are delighted to have the chance to share some of these same experiences.