Indigo & Cloth is doing something a bit different to other stores in Dublin. The Independent men’s fashion, lifestyle and design retailer resides in Dublin’s famous Temple Bar- a tourist hotspot of the city. In contrast to the busy tourist scene, Indigo & Cloth heralds art and design (outside of the perfectly poured Guinness and renditions of ‘Galway Girl’) by local Irish artists. The store itself boasts quality menswear and lifestyle products unique and exclusive to Ireland, whilst serving a seasonal speciality coffee offering from their café that can be enjoyed whilst taking in the unique aesthetic of the store.
In the re-purposed textile building, of the towering four floors of brick and mortar; three are dedicated not only to its retail offering; but also to owner Andy and his staff’s passion for coffee and design.
The ground floor of the store shares shelves of retail products with its stylish, minimalist café that serves Bailies as its house roaster and features guest roasters on rotation, changing twice every year with some seasonal specials. The newly revamped third floor, ‘The Studio’, is a multi-functional, modular space with the ability to accommodate for; events, photography and design studio spaces, as well as its day-to-day use as an area for retail and a newly implemented ‘pour-over’ focused coffee space- to sit and relax and further educate on the art of filter coffee.
We spent a rainy December afternoon with owner Andy Collins, as he took us on a tour around the store before getting stuck into the busy preparations for the evening’s Indigo & Cloth x Bailies cupping event.
Coffee within an independent retail space seems perhaps to some, quite strange, what made you pursue selling speciality coffee within Indigo & Cloth?
Speciality coffee in Dublin, when it first broke out had the impression of being somewhat snobby and close-minded in certain places. That’s changed now though, with a thriving, collaborative community of businesses. When opening the café, we wanted our café’s brand curation to be more inviting, allowing people to experience rare lots and editions without the intimidation that sometimes comes with a speciality cafe. Coffee helps to break the act of shopping in a retail environment - it helps to relax and put the customer and ourselves at ease – encouraging more interaction and conversation around not only the coffee but the products we sell in-store.
We opened the café part of our business in March 2019, with the purpose of pushing the product assortment and experience to a contemporary level, bringing it in line to match the store. With the modern set-up and brands to match, customer service then became key, ensuring both new customers and old can be educated and enthused on what we are doing in-store.
There was a time we were without the café part of the store and it was deeply missed, so we knew we had to bring it back. It sets the right type of atmosphere we want to create in-store, one that’s built on customer engagement and trust – essentially building a community around our in-store experience. When we didn’t have the coffee shop as part of the store- we lost that everyday customer we once had, impacting on the atmosphere. We loved the experience that it created for customers.
When did your passion for coffee first come about?
I’ve always enjoyed coffee, but I guess my knowledge of coffee had come about through having a passion for travelling and searching for new experiences in retail. For instance with our initial Spring/Summer menu when we opened in March 2019, I had visited previously visited both Nomad, Barcelona and Bonanza, Berlin who we initially stocked. To be honest, it’s more the opportunity to connect and collaborate with people I admire and who’ve also created experiences I’ve loved. I want to try and bring that sense of experience to our own customers here in Dublin.
How has Bailies helped your business?
Bailies have been instrumental to helping our business. As our house roaster they have helped to provide us not only with incredible coffee that’s constantly evolving, but also with equipment and knowledge. By bringing a speciality café into the building- we needed the training to match too. The SCA courses offered by Bailies helped us so much, but they also help customers to get into coffee and filter coffee in the right way.
Again though, it’s mostly around the personal relationship we have with the brand. As an independent business, the relationships we create are always built on trust, ensuring we can represent the brand to its best potential. From that trust, we’ve received constant support and built up lasting friendships with Bailies, which results in a natural passion for the products we sell.
With Bailies coffee specifically, we’ve used Nota espresso as our house blend since opening. Bailies is the only permanent coffee brand we have in the café, with our seasonal menu offering new coffee brands and specials, changing twice a year. Having the Nota as a consistent house espresso allows us to engage with our regular customers who want that same comforting coffee when they visit time and time again. We also have a rotating guest espresso option for those looking to experiment with something different. I think a lot of speciality café’s lose sight of that baseline customer, who are looking for the same tasting coffee they loved in the first place. It’s been a crowd pleaser since arriving back in March.
One of our best investments through Bailies for the café space is our Marco SP9. It’s an incredible piece of kit that allows us to make some amazing filter coffee. The consistency of this machine helps the barista ensure quality and consistency, whilst also giving our staff more time to engage with our customers. Filter coffee is a huge part of what we do, allowing us to showcase the best of our international brands we stock and is perfect to use when we have a coffee on bar that requires a recipe with specific parameters. This makes Bailies Microlots on filter a real bonus for us because we can be creative with them and experience a real nuance of flavours and aromas.
Indigo & Cloth comprises three elements in its make-up: café, retail space and studio. Why did you decide that you wanted to combine all these things within your business?
Dublin is lacking in independent creative spaces within the centre of the city. I really appreciate businesses that have a different aesthetic, a different focus- and having coffee here as well as our studio space- that created something that I think set us apart, and still does. It’s all built on a unique customer experience.
It’s paramount that we continue to collaborate and be open with our brands, suppliers and customers to help to shine a light on the talent we have within our city. We are always looking to collaborate with various artists across different disciplines; collage artists, illustrators, musicians, graphic designers- it gives us an opportunity to connect with creatives in our city and give them a platform to share their work.
We produce the majority of our graphic design work in-house. With collaborative projects, through the café’s strategy, we aim to work with a different artist for each of our seasonal menus. For instance, for our Spring/Summer menu (March – October 2019) we worked with Irish artist; Fatti Burke producing a collaborative print and tote bag.
How do you go about curating Indigo & Cloth?
Our aim is to stock quality-driven products that are worthy of investment. For the fashion side of things, the majority of our brands are exclusive to the country, ensuring our customers are offered something different within a unique environment. When opening the café, we wanted to replicate what we do when buying fashion. Twice a year, every year, we launch a new seasonal collection (Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer). We’ve included these seasonal collections within our café assortment, presenting two new seasonal menus each year, stocking new coffee brands for each and releasing seasonal specials. For example, for our latest Autumn/Winter menu (October – March), we are stocking La Cabra, Aarhus and Origin, Cornwall as our guest roasters. We’ve released seasonal specials like our Winter Hot Chocolate in collaboration with Wexford chocolate producers, Bean & Goose.
The changing and evolving menu set up allows us to work and collaborate with new brands, ensuring we’re offering new experiences for our customers. We’ve already started to research our next menu and seasonal specials for the upcoming Spring/Summer release.
The lifestyle brands you stock in Indigo & Cloth are within the higher pricing bracket, how do you work your selling strategy in order to compete with other stores and particularly the fast-fashion giants that seem to dominate the retail space?
It’s all about experience. A lot of the brands we stock in-store are available internationally, sometimes from companies which huge investment that can offer quicker shipping and better advertising. As an independent, it’s all about creating a unique in-store atmosphere and customer experience to build a loyal following.
It’s so important put your customer first in terms of the products we buy - if you can see the investment in a product; the quality, the craftmanship- that counts for a lot and they will be able understand it more transparently.
The same can be said with how the speciality coffee scene has become much more mainstream in recent years. People are willing to pay more for quality coffee that is sourced ethically and sustainably.