We talk to Patrick Temple, CEO of Magee Weaving and Susie Page, Magee Textile Designer about what brought them to work in one of Ireland’s oldest weaving mills and where mill’s direction is for the future.
As one of the 5th generation behind Magee 1866 and as an engineer by training, Patrick has a real affinity with the Mill. Patrick shares with us what drew him to this specific area of Magee 1866 from a young age:
‘’When I was a child, Dad and I would often call in with hand-weavers around rural Donegal, some of the weavers lived miles away and it was always a great expedition to find our way up narrow side roads in the mountainous valleys. I loved being allowed into the ‘weaver’s shed’ where the loom sat with its well-worn seat. I was always asking dozens of questions about how the loom worked and how all of those of yarns came together to form ‘Donegal Tweed’, a fabric that has been part of the local heritage in the northwest of Ireland for centuries. Donegal Tweed is a woollen fabric, distinctive in its flecks of colour and ‘salt and pepper’ or ‘herringbone’ patterns. Donegal Tweed is what our ancestor, John Magee, started buying back in the 1860s and that heritage remains very much part of who we are today.
I was also in and out of the Mill all the time, running about the warping machines and looms…health and safety wasn’t quite so rigorous in the early 1990s! As you might have guessed, I was the child with a lot of Lego and Meccano sets, so the literal nuts and bolts of weaving naturally appealed. Although, I didn’t go straight into the Weaving after school as Dad always encouraged us to go off and do our own thing before getting involved, so I trained as an Engineer in Trinity College, Dublin. This led to work in London, Sydney and then Scotland where my main project involved developing wave energy as a sustainable and renewable resource. In my late twenties, I was then ready to come back to the Weaving Mill. I was immediately involved in all of the complex areas around production, working through the logistics and operations of turning tonnes of yarn into thousands of meters of fabric each season. I work with highly skilled teams from the textile designers to warpers, weavers, finishers and menders on the mill floor. I feel privileged to work with people who have been connected to weaving and Magee for generations. Today, we work to bring all of this knowledge into our fabric and work with our designers to bring a contemporary edge to this wealth of heritage.’’
This means that an emphasis on design and creativity is key to us today and for our future. Susie Page, one of our lead fabric designers, came to us from Scotland, which also has a rich heritage in textile design and manufacturing.
“I wanted to do something connected with fabric design, so I came to Donegal, which is really renowned for its tweed and craft history. Donegal is such a lovely place to live and work, but due to the variety of customers we work with, we also have the opportunity to travel throughout the world. We get inspiration from what we see in shops and exhibitions in key cities such as London and New York, but here in Donegal, we also get the peace we need for design inspiration. It’s good to have that balance.”
When designing fabric, our design team consider both our rich heritage taken from our beautiful archive, in balance with new trends that we see coming through within the fashion world.
“We’re always trying to do something new and innovative”, Susie says, “while covering our classics as well. Each season we include new creative patterns and colour combinations. When working with customers, we sometimes get new ideas from them as well; they might request a colour combination that we haven’t thought of, and in exchange we often surprise our customers with traditional patterns used in different ways, in new colour palettes, which is exciting for them, too.”
For our fabric designers, the process begins with creating mood boards and deciding on the qualities of fabrics they want to develop that season, and the stories they want to tell through that fabric. Whether it’s a traditional Irish linen or a rich Donegal Tweed.
They then design the yarn that will make up the fabric. Working closely with our spinners in developing our own colours, our designers will select the finer details down to for example the nepps of colour that come through in our Donegal Tweeds.
Our designers then create ‘blankets’, which showcase different colour combinations, woven together in one fabric. Sometimes unexpected colour combinations can inspire a new direction for their collection, but usually they have planned the exact end result they would like to achieve.
The finalised designs then go into production within our weaving mill, where the fabric is warped, woven and finished by our expert team, ready to be shipped off into the world. This fabric is used then by our own Magee 1866 clothing collections, as well as also being exported internationally to other clothing brands, tailors, and more.
And finally, an all-important word on sustainability. Patrick’s experience in work with renewable energy together with the family’s inherent interest and respect for the environment means that sustainability has always been relevant to the Mill. Today, it is really front of mind. For Patrick, it is essential to continue working with natural, biodegradable and renewable fibres like wool, cashmere, and flax. These fibres weave together to make fabric which stands the test of time.
“Magee Weaving brings you a unique fabric which is deeply imbued with the knowledge of generations of weavers, brought to life by the vibrancy of our design and by its very nature, a sustainable choice.”