Category

Donegal Tweed

Category

When it comes to braving winter weather, your favourite coat – the one you’ll be reaching for, year after year – needs to check some essential boxes: beautiful quality that wears well with age, it needs to be warm, and the silhouette should withstand the test of time, from the workday commute to weekend adventures.

For us, there’s no better answer than a Donegal Tweed coat. Donegal Tweed is designed to keep you warm, and at our weaving mill, we have spent years experimenting and designing to create tweeds that are luxuriously warm, timeless and made with natural fibres. For a behind-the-scenes look at our weaving mill, look no further…

This Autumn Winter 2019, we have launched some new shapes and styles of coats for men and women, in Donegal Tweeds designed and woven at our mill in Donegal.

The Alexa coat

All new this season, the Alexa is designed to make a statement. Mid-length, with raglan shoulders and deep hand-warmer pockets, this coat is meant to be worn over anything, to anything, whether it’s work or play.

The fabric is an over-sized red and white check, inspired by the Irish Brigid’s Cross. It’s designed and woven at our weaving mill; take a look at its journey through our weaving mill, from warping to mending and final examinations above.

This is one of my favourite Magee women’s coats, we have a similar men’s raglan sleeve coat – the Corrib which we have run in our collections for years and people often asked me can you do a women’s version! Here it is – the Alexa is a timeless coat that can be worn year after year. I just love this oversized fabric design, which showcases what our mill do best – intricate designs in beautiful natural fibres.Charlotte Temple – Creative Director

The Emma Coat

It’s no secret that the Emma coat is one of our favourites. It’s easily styled for day or night, and can be worn over trousers and a blouse, or a dress with heels. Worn unbuttoned, the coat has a bit of movement to it that we love.

This season, the Emma coat comes in two Donegal Tweed colourways: a classic black and white herringbone, and a herringbone in mulberry and camel.

The Linsford coat

For occasions and outfits that call for a polished look, the Linsford is the perfect option. Princess seams help the Linsford sit close to the body, giving a fitted silhouette. The Nehru collar can be worn standing up, or folded down to reveal a pop of velvet in the lining.

The Moross Duffle coat

The Moross duffle coat is all new to the Magee 1866 collection this season, effortlessly fusing contemporary styling with our heritage salt-and-pepper Donegal Tweed.

Our designers have given the ever-popular duffle coat an upgrade, with a quilted brushed cotton lining, real horn toggle fasteners, and of course our own Donegal Tweed, designed and woven in Donegal.

The Corrib coat

There’s no doubt that men’s style this decade has taken a lot of inspiration from BBC’s Peaky Blinders, and the Corrib coat is the perfect answer to it. A long silhouette and raglan sleeves make it the perfect winter overcoat, from workdays to casual weekends.

The Fintra Peacoat

There are few looks as timeless as the peacoat. It’s been a staple look for men since the 1800s, bringing a nautical element to the winter wardrobe along with a sharp, tailored silhouette. Our Fintra peacoat comes in a navy herringbone Donegal Tweed, designed and woven at our mill.

To wrap up this year’s heritage celebration, we sat down with Lynn Temple, Chairman of Magee 1866 and fourth-generation family member. Growing up with the business since the 1950’s, we asked Lynn to share some of his favourite memories from childhood and the intervening years, as well as his thoughts on the future of the brand.

“In the 1950’s, the company was powered by three generators of different sizes. There was always one big one running at any time, driving what looked like a Victorian mill with a huge central drive from the ceiling and belts running off it, which then drove the sewing machines. My great delight as a little boy was to start and stop the generators. I would run in and switch on a generator that wasn’t running, and switch it off again. One day, I got confused and switched off the main generator. The whole factory ground to a halt. I was in serious trouble. The production manager ate me – it was horrendous. They lost about an hour and a half production before they got the whole thing working again!

In those days, with direct current, fire was always a risk. At Magee in Donegal, we always had our own petrol-driven fire engine. We used to go to the River Eske beside the factory, where the suction pump at the end of the fire engine was put into the river. The hose was at the other end and we used to practice every week. That practice always attracted a whole lot of the town’s teenagers who used to sit at the wall on the other side of the river, and shout to see if we could hit them with the spray of the hose. We had great fun decoying them at the end of the wall with the engine at half-power, and then when they were all lined up, we’d open the throttle and we could knock them off the wall like skittles. As a ten year old I thought it was absolutely the best part of Magee!

Just William type memories aside (!), Magee in the 1950s was a very traditional place and focused principally on hand-weaving and hand-knitting.  As continental competition grew in the 70’s and 80’s, we very much upped our game to further develop tailoring around the ‘business suit’. The Weaving Mill shifted gears in the late 60’s and 70’s as it became a more fashion orientated business. Magee’s Donegal Tweed was picked up by designers such as Sybil Connolly and Irene Gilbert, which brought some serious panache and established global exports of our luxury fabric.

Cavan Gilet in Donegal Tweed; Handwoven Donegal Tweed Jacket

Now, we see the market changing again to incorporate far more lifestyle and casual fit garments. Beautiful tailoring will always have a place in the market but ‘Casual Fridays’ in the workplace are certainly here to stay! For us it is always important to never lose sight of our roots but crucial to also keep looking forward. This means that we continue to focus on using our own fabric throughout our collections while also making sure we don’t ever get stuck in the past with old 70’s suits! The other huge shift that I see, is the growing awareness of sustainability which we are firm believers in. It wasn’t a common topic in the 1950’s (!) but it is good to see this emphasis on ‘slow fashion’, which fits the bill for us.

Preview of Spring/Summer 2020 collection

Looking to the future, one of the points that gives me huge encouragement as a 68-year-old, even as the European market goes through huge uncertainty with Brexit, is the team we have here at Magee 1866. We are fortunate to have three of our own family: Charlotte as Design Director, Patrick as CEO of Magee Weaving, and Rosy on Sales Management, combined with an energetic and young team based here in Donegal. Alongside this youth, there are of course people who have worked here for over 40 years and with family connections stretching back multiple generations. We are very fortunate to have such a critical mass of knowledge, skill and enthusiasm here in Donegal. This gives me great heart and that we will certainly be around for the next 150 years and more! ‘’

Sustainability is very much part of our family values and what we do at Magee 1866.  We recognise that it is a not a straightforward concept with easy solutions. Yet, as a family we are  on board to drive a philosophy which respects our environment and how we do business in it.

We have grown up in in the wilds of Donegal with the Atlantic on our doorstep for swimming and the Bluestacks Mountains just up the road for exploring. Mum and Dad have always encouraged a deep respect for this magic landscape at home and to tread with care. This culture of care for the landscape around us means putting time and effort into make sustainable choices from planting belts of mixed forestry to eating organically, growing vegetables and cycling in and out to work. This sustainable set of lifestyle values as a family translates to what we do at work. We don’t leave them at home!

Lynn Temple, Chairman of Magee 1866, and Rosy Temple, Marketing & Retail Manager, in Mountcharles, Co Donegal

When it comes to work, for over 150 years sustainability has been inherent in our DNA. We focus on using natural fibres like wool which is renewable and biodegradable by default. Natrual fibres create fabric and clothing which is of a high quality, a far cry from the ‘throw away’ culture of fast fashion. Today, we look to harness this sustainable core and to bring its essence through our collections. When you invest in a coat like the Emma (below), you are buying a piece which is made of wool, it is made to last and to be enjoyed season after season. As a 5th generation family business, we are not here today and gone tomorrow and neither is our clothing.

The Emma coat in a black and white herringbone-patterned Donegal Tweed

It is so encouraging to see that sustainability is now part of a more mainstream conversation around the world. I am currently in Tokyo with work and also to commiserate with Irish fans over our world cup loss…! Yesterday, I took part in the ‘Tweed Run Tokyo’.

The event was to highlight the versatility of the fabric, its sustainable virtues and to celebrate this with an emissions free pedal about the vast city. What an experience and a vibrant ensemble of bold style and panache!

Models in Tokyo, featuring our Alexa coat (centre) styled with Fishermen Out of Ireland jumper and Bernie Murphy trouser

I talked to the team from the beautiful United Arrows clothing store. They shared with me the Japanese concept of Mottainai which is a Japanese term to convey a ‘sense of regret concerning waste’ and a request to ‘not waste anything worthy’ from food to object. It was fascinating to hear of this old proverb, now being applied to today’s emphasis on moving away from a throw-away culture.

On my return from this provoking event, I bought a single banana…which was completely wrapped in plastic. As a world of consumers, living sustainably is undeniably complex but we hope that the spirit of Mottaninai will start to prevail!  At Magee 1866, we hope that you will join us on the journey to create and wear clothing which pays heed to the sensitivities of the environment.

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.”

My early memories of Magee as a child were built around what Dad wore as he left for the office at exactly 0750 every morning – namely a navy suit with a brightly coloured tie. (While Dad has never worked directly in our design departments, he has always had a natural flare for colour and styling!) The upstairs wardrobe was full of soft earthy brown and green houndstooth jackets with the odd thornproof suit in a moss green with a fine red thread running through (great for dressing up in as a child!). My brother and I also acquired a bright green linen/silk bolt that we used for ‘tent’s and ‘hide-outs’ in the woods at home. Probably not the final end use desired by the Weaving designer at the time but perfect for us – 65m went a long way for these structures.

Our fabrics and garments have evolved over the years, but the core message of quality and producing a timeless product has always been at the heart of what we do. We focus on natural fibres – wool, alpaca, cashmere, linen and silk. Traditionally Magee 1866 concentrated on jacket and suits, I joined the business in 2012 and while I have no formal training in design, I have been steeped in our brand since a child and love and believe in the the idea of taking a clothing brand and building a lifestyle around it. This is what we are striving to do and use our amazing fabrics as much as possible in these collections.

The Magee 1866 fabrics would have been originally all handwoven and their function was not fashion but utility. In the 1960’s two leading Irish designers – Sybill Connelly and Irene Gilbert started to use our Donegal tweed in the women’s collection. We have always been renowned for our brightly coloured and intricately designed apparel fabrics. In 2018 we launched our first interiors collection.

While we do buy from other mills, particularly in suiting – the UK and Italy, this vertical approach from mill to finished garment allows us to develop truly unique fabrics for our product collections.

Each season we are working to subtly push the boundaries, combining the best of Donegal cloths with contemporary styling – AW19 the Duffle and Alexa coat, while still retaining our more classic pieces. A tricky balance! The Autumn Winter season is so strong for us, colours are rich with earthy tones and our natural cloths really come into their own.

Trends are evolving all the time and the casual direction the world is moving is very prevalent – I still believe there will always be room for a smartly tailored suit, so much so we have just launched an extensive made to measure service!

Spring Summer is a little more difficult, but we are looking to develop the Irish linen story across a number of products and use a more softer colour base across our lightweight wools. For us the ideal spring piece is something that can transcend seasons, particularly in Ireland where our weather is so unpredictable.

A sneak preview to SS20 and our Irish linen suit in an olive green Glencheck (also available in navy) is a wardrobe must – the great thing about this suit is how you can mix up the styling – the checked jacket with plain linen trousers and a t-shirt or the trousers with one of our Irish linen grandfather shirts (an exclusive made in Ireland product). Embracing the casual trends we are introducing a casual lux collection.

I have been working with our team to review how we can use our beautiful Donegal tweeds and linens in some timeless and the more quirky accessories, e.g. our Donegal tweed teddy bear (Made in the UK) and our throws – made in Donegal by us. This is an exciting area for development – watch this space!

There’s no doubt that the iconic Peaky Blinders series from BBC One, and especially Cillian Murphy’s performance of 20th-century ganglord, Tommy Shelby, has had a huge influence on men’s style everywhere. We can see its influence all over the streets of Ireland and the UK, from men’s haircuts to the rising popularity of the baker cap.

Magee 1866 has over 150 years of history, designing, weaving and tailoring, so of course, Peaky Blinders ticks all the boxes for us. We wouldn’t recommend rocking up to work on Monday in a full three-piece tweed suit with a baker’s cap on top (unless you really want to?) but with a bit of modern sense, you can achieve the Tommy Shelby look for any occasion.

1 | The Suit

For the role of Tommy Shelby, costume designer Stephanie Collie had several suits made by London-based tailor Keith Watson.

Having a suit that fits well is essential; it will give you that Tommy Shelby swagger without all the criminal activity. Fitted, tapered trousers will give any man more height, and give a modern look. The trousers mightn’t be entirely historically accurate in Peaky Blinders (apparently bell-bottoms were the look of choice) but the tailored trouser is definitely sharp looking, and we would recommend going the same way.

Among the Shelby clan, tweed rules the day, with grey herringbone and dark checks coming through. This look is reminiscent of another era, while still being entirely comfortable, modern and wearable. If you’re going all-out, definitely include the waistcoat (and a pocket watch!) but for an updated look, you can make it more casual by leaving the waistcoat at home. It’s good to have options.

Three piece grey tailored Donegal Tweed suit. €699.

2 | Outerwear

The Baker’s cap is potentially the most essential part of this look, dare we say it. It’s different to a flat cap, as it has a more structured design and a button on top. These caps were a popular choice in the early 20th century.

And then, of course, there’s the coat. Cillian Murphy’s character is seen in a long wool coat with a prominent lapel. His coat is slightly oversized (probably for gun-slinging purposes) but it makes an attractive silhouette, and is easy to wear over a suit.

Other essential details include black gloves, sturdy boots, and a pocket watch, at your discretion.

Left to right: Arranmore Double Breasted Donegal Tweed Coat. Doonalt Tailored Coat. assorted men’s caps.

3 | The Shirt

Especially in the first season, Tommy Shelby is seen pretty much exclusively in a penny-collar shirt, sans tie. Difficult enough to find today, the grandfather collar shirt is a suitable substitute, with the same rounded collar and button-up neck. Style it with a crisp white linen for the Tommy Shelby look, or a striped cotton flannel for added warmth.

Left: Irish-made linen grandfather shirt. Right: Striped Irish cotton grandfather shirt.

4 | The Dinner Suit

For a man whose idea of ‘business casual’ is a three-piece suit and pocketwatch, it’s no surprise that Cillian Murphy’s character goes all-out for formal wear. The black dinner suit has a timeless, cinematic elegance, and it’s making a comeback.

The dinner suit is usually worn as a two-piece – jacket and trousers – with a crisp white formal shirt and a black bowtie, just like Tommy Shelby above.

Left to right: Two piece dinner suit. Silk self-tie bow tie. Slim fit formal shirt.

Handweaving is a skill that has been passed down through the generations. It is suggested that the art of weaving dates back to the Palaeolithic era, although there is little evidence to support this. Woven linen cloth has been found dating back to the Neolithic period. While there may be a few thousand years in the debate as to when weaving was first developed, we know for a fact it is a reassuringly ancient skill and craft!

Market day in the ‘Diamond’, Donegal Town.

This unique fabric is the backbone of our family company – in 1866 John Magee founded his handwoven tweed business in Donegal, Ireland. At that time weaving was a skill many farmers and fishermen had honed, the cloth they wove on large wooden looms was hardwearing and tough, and the most ‘technical’ fabric of its time – used to keep out the damp and cold in not only Donegal, but across Ireland, the UK and was a staple garment for the early polar explorers and alpinists across the globe.

Photograph of the 1924 Everest Exhibition – photograph from the John Noel Collection. Tweed and wool feature as the ‘ultimate kit’ for these pioneering alpinists. Wool has a natural ability to ‘wick’ away moisture to its vapour state, making it still one of the best and most sustainable technical fibres.

In 2019, we are still designing and producing a unique handwoven fabric – we retain similar, timeless designs – namely the herringbone – inspired by fish-bones and the ‘true Donegal tweed’ – the salt & pepper. We use the finest of yarns – lambswool, mohair and cashmere. Designs are sent to the weavers who work in their homes, the raw fabric is then sent back to the mill to be washed and finished. We wash the raw, oily fabric in the peaty waters of the River Eske, which flows by the mill, resulting in a beautifully soft finish.

The traditional wooden handloom

Donegal handwoven tweed is distinctive with its bright flecks of colour woven through each piece. Heather purples, grass greens, fuchsia pinks, gorse yellows, sea blues, rusty oranges and earthy browns to name but a few colours found in this unique fabric.

Shop our tweed

Pin It