This September sees the return of our annual ‘Heritage Month’, a showcase of our rich history and over 150 years’ experience designing, weaving and tailoring luxurious fabrics, clothing and accessories in Donegal.
Throughout the month we will explore the history and heritage of Magee 1866 through the celebration of ‘Wool’. What are the processes, what makes it so special, and why, after 150 years is it still so relevant for our brand?
We wouldn’t be where we are without wool. This natural, sustainable, nearly magical fibre was our foundation in 1866 and is at the core of our business today.
In the 19th century, founder John Magee would visit monthly tweed markets across south-west Donegal, trading directly with the weavers. These coarse fabrics were hand woven in the homes of fishermen and farmers, usually in the winter when agriculture was at its quietest. Farming and weaving have always gone hand in hand, the yarns were usually spun in the same home as they were woven. Sustainability as we know it now was a way of life back then. This hardwearing fabric was used across Ireland to dissipate the damp and cold climate for those working on the land. Wool is a natural ‘wicking’ fabric – i.e., it absorbs moisture and carries it away from the body.
Now, over 150 years on, wool is still central to our collections. The process from sheep to garment involves many steps, but these fundamentally haven’t changed since John Magee’s days. Sustainable fabric and high-quality, long-lasting products define our DNA. Our weaving mill in Donegal Town, on the banks of the River Eske, is still the beating heart of everything we do at Magee and we are proud to support a tradition of weaving and manufacturing textiles in the northwest of Ireland, bringing a contemporary edge to an age-old craft.
However, wool fleeces are seen as a bi-product of the Irish farming industry, (sheep are breed for milk and meat), resulting in very poor price for farmers. We are part of a wider movement to develop Irish Wool for use in fine textiles and have been working closely with our yarn supplier, Donegal Yarns, on an exciting journey to reintroduce Irish Wool into our collections. Working closely with farmers across Ireland and Donegal Yarns to source finer wool from Irish sheep to re-ignite positivity around this fantastic and ‘local’ raw material.
From the origins of the company in the 1800s, based on handwoven tweed originating in Donegal, to our latest initiative, Magee 1866 X Irish Wool, over the course of the month we will explore wool as a material, its applications within our collections and the craft, skill and expertise that goes into creating luxurious products with wool. We will delve into the archives and celebrate wool.