Hailing from Donegal, where it is possible to enjoy all four seasons in one day, the inspiration for shades of green is endless. Our designers look to the landscapes of our home county when creating our luxurious collections for men, women and the home.
Every year in September we take time to celebrate our rich heritage and as a 5th generation family business first established in the 1800s, we have lots in the archives to reflect on. This year, we will be focusing on design and what has changed in over 150 years.
In the 19th century, founder John Magee, a wholesale cloth merchant, would visit monthly tweed markets across South-West Donegal, trading directly with the weavers. The then hardwearing, coarse fabric was handwoven across Donegal in the homes of part-time fishermen and farmers as the perfect fabric for dissipating the damp and cold weather, so often found in the North-West of Ireland, a far cry from the luxurious cloths being produced today.
Traditionally, there have always been two ‘true’ Donegal tweed patterns – Salt & Pepper and Herringbone (said to be inspired by fishbones), but that didn’t mean it was always the same, there was lots of opportunity to add colour and personality with the signature neps, the defining characteristic of Donegal Tweeds. The yarn was dyed with natural dyes made from lichen, flowers, berries, and other plants which reflected the natural beauty of the Donegal landscape, and these colourful flecks were created during the yarn spinning process.
Robert Temple, John Magee’s apprentice and cousin took over the business in the early 1900s and made some revolutionary changes. Robert brought the handweavers in-house, opening a tweed factory where the design and quality could be more closely controlled, ensuring consistency across repeat fabrics. This move is seen by many as having saved handwoven Donegal Tweed from extinction.
Moving forward to the middle of the century, and the next generation, we were still focused primarily on handweaving and handknitting, but fashions were changing. We started tailoring in the 1940’s with a focus on men’s jackets and suiting. Magee 1866 stood out from the many others producing dull, grey ‘de-mob’ suiting at the time with our unique and colourful fabrics.
The Magee thronproof suit
We were then established in international fashion in the 1960s due to the relationship between Col. Bob Harris (brother-In-law of Howard Temple) and the Irish designers Sybil Connolly and Irene Gilbert. They began to use Donegal Tweed, which had previously been seen as a ‘functional, hard-wearing fabric,’ in their collections which appealed especially to the US market. This launched Donegal Tweed on the global fashion scene, and it has grown from there.
Irene Gilbert designs in Magee Tweed. Photographer unknown.
Vintage Magee 1866 ads
As continental competition grew in the 70s and 80s, our weaving mill shifted gears and we became a more fashion orientated business. Power looms were introduced, allowing us to develop lighter, softer, more luxurious cloths in more intricate designs, paving the way for the introduction of our first women’s collections in the 1990s.
The classic salt & pepper and herringbone designs are still very much part of our collections today, and we are always looking at ways to adapt these timeless designs into modern pieces.
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 North-West of Ireland, bringing a contemporary edge to an age-old craft.
The design process
There is much to consider when preparing a collection. Our designers in the mill work closely with our clothing designers, looking to our rich heritage, extensive archive, and the inspirational landscape of Donegal, this is balanced with new trends and the needs of our many customers. They plan what we would like to convey through the collection deciding on core fabrics to develop and the stories we wish to tell with each cloth, design and finished product.
Mood boards are worked on – snippets from magazines, old photos, colours swatches, archive fabrics and yarns are collated. Then the technical aspect starts -the detailed fabric design and colour balance, the fit and styling details on a garment. Sampling starts both through our mill and with our garment suppliers. The mill tends to work over twelve months ahead of the next season, while our clothing collection are six to nine months ahead.
Magee 1866 Autumn Winter 2022 Collection
Since we started in the 1800s our focus has always been on slow fashion and natural fibre fabrics – wool, lambswool, alpaca, cashmere, and linen.
Our fabric and clothing collections have certainly evolved over the years, the 1940s embraced the thorn proof suit, moving into the 70s/80s and bold checks took over. Today, we work towards creating lifestyle collections for both men and women – taking elements of the past and working them into a variety of products. The casual movement is global, and we are now making our incredible fabrics into unstructured, light, and beautiful crafted pieces. In the early 2000s we launched our throw and scarf collection; these luxurious products are extra special as they are 100% Irish made.
In the beginning, our fabric was used locally and then sold into the UK, today, thousands of metres, designed and woven in Donegal, are used by international fashion brands, and shipped all over the world. With all this innovation, we are proud of the fact that we are also still handweaving in Donegal.
We are passionate about the preservation of the heritage of weaving and design in Donegal. Trends evolve, but Donegal Tweed is timeless.
Follow our journey throughout the month on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and #Magee1866Heritage and sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear about new arrivals.
Natural fibre fabrics are central to our collections and this season is no exception with Irish Linen making up a large part of Spring Summer for both men and women. The ultimate versatile fabric, linen is synonymous with summer and perfect whether you’re relaxing on the beach or working in the city.
“Linen is one of the oldest fabrics in the world and the history of weaving linen in Ireland goes back hundreds of years. It has many sustainable values as it uses considerably less water than cotton, for example, and will grow on poor land. Flax, the crop it is made from, is really versatile too because it is cultivated for yarn and food (this is where linseed comes from). We have been designing, weaving and finishing Irish Linen at our mill in Donegal since 1975, its cool, fresh properties make it perfect for our spring summer collections and it complements our Donegal Tweeds perfectly.”
Patrick Temple, CEO Magee Weaving, 5th Generation Family Member and President of the Irish Linen Guild
We have been designing, weaving and tailoring luxurious fabrics and clothing in Donegal for five generations and over 150 years. This season we looked to the beaches, cliffs and piers that are dotted along the 1,000km of coastline of our home county for inspiration when designing the Spring Summer 2022 collection – ‘COAST’. The nautical theme is reflected in the choice of colours, naval and sea blues are contrasted in this collection with timeless, neutral shades of natural linen, greys and oat.
Renewable and biodegradable, linen comes from an all-natural source, offering a rich, soft feeling that cannot be imitated by manmade fibres. It is also truly sustainable – requiring less water and land to grow than cotton, for example and it can be processed without chemicals.
Alongside the pieces crafted in Irish Linen, designed, woven and finished at the our weaving mill in Donegal, this collection also features styles in Irish Linen from Baird McNutt, another long-established mill who design in the harbour village of Downings in County Donegal and weave in their historic mill in County Antrim.
The Rebecca dress is a real showstopper, mid length in a nautical oat-grey with a chalky green and pale blue stripe, this shirt dress can be styled just as well with white trainers as it does with heeled sandals for a day out.
Highlights in Irish Linen for men include the new Dingle four pocket jacket an unlined and unstructured style, perfect for layering when the sun goes down. Wardrobe staples the Kilbeg shirt and Straid drawstring trousers are available in a range of versatile colours and when styled with the coordinating Finn jacket in dark inky blue linen, make an ideal look for a special occasion.
Linen can be divisive due to its tendency to crease, but for us this is one of its charms, a unique characteristic that we should embrace. The relaxed look of linen and its natural cooling properties make it the ideal choice for pieces we wear close to our skin like shirts and tops.
This collection is designed to maximise your summer and as always with Magee 1866, expect colours and textures that will transport you to a sandy shore, looking out at the wild Atlantic Ocean.
The European Commission are proposing a framework to protect the intellectual property for craft and industrial products including Donegal Tweed.
At Magee 1866, we are delighted to see the announcement from the EU Commission on the preliminary steps towards providing geographical protection for “craft and industrial products that rely on the originality and authenticity of traditional practices from their regions”. This framework will cover Donegal Tweed as well as products like Murano Glass and Porcelaine de Limoges and is similar to the protection offered to Champagne, Feta cheese and the Waterford Blaa under their “Protected Geographical indication” (PGI) status.
Patrick Temple, 5th generation family member and CEO of Magee Weaving, has been active in this campaign, starting with initial submissions to the EU a decade ago. Since then, Patrick has been working closely with other weavers in Co. Donegal, with vital support from the Design & Crafts Council Irelandand marketing and business consultant Muiris Kennedy, to champion this cause. This will be of huge benefit to weavers in Co. Donegal and to the long-term brand protection of Donegal Tweed.
“Europe has an exceptional legacy of world-renown crafts and industrial products. It is time that these producers benefit from a new intellectual property right, like food and wine producers, that will increase trust and visibility for their products, guaranteeing authenticity and reputation. Today’s initiative will contribute to the creation of skilled jobs especially for SMEs and to the development of tourism also in the more rural or economically weak areas.”
Donegal Tweed is an iconic part of the counties’ centuries old weaving tradition and is unique as a woven fabric due to the contrasting colourful neps/bur spun into the yarn which is then woven in a plain or twill weave, otherwise known as Salt & Pepper or Herringbone, respectfully. Rooted in the land and seascapes of Donegal, the colours were historically drawn from our surroundings and the unique Herringbone pattern is inspired by the fish caught in the Atlantic Ocean or patterns in the sand after the tide goes out. The Salt & Pepper design is inspired by the speckled landscape of the countryside.
Today, Donegal Tweed, as a vibrant, natural fibre and sustainable fabric, continues to form a principal part of our Magee 1866 collections. Our weaving mill in Donegal Town, on the banks of the River Eske, is still the beating heart of everything we do at Magee 1866. 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.
As the end of the year approaches, Lynn, Charlotte, Patrick and Rosy Temple, the fourth and fifth generations at the helm of Magee 1866 discuss family, childhood memories and Christmas traditions.
Being part of a family business that has been operating since the 19th century, there are a lot of stories to tell and memories to share. From the Spanish Flu to world wars and recessions, not to mention more recent events! We suppose when you have been in business for as long as we have, over 150 years, you will have seen a lot.
A fond memory of growing up in the family business.
Lynn Temple, family patriarch and Chairman: I have many happy memories of Magee but some of my happiest are visiting the handweavers in their homes around South-West Donegal. They would typify the very best of Donegal’s warmth of hospitality, great characters. I’m delighted we still continue this tradition of handweaving today.
Charlotte Temple, Design Director: One of my earliest memories of Magee as a child were the Christmas parties, they were incredible events held in the canteen for all the children of staff. There was a huge net of balloons that used to be released when Santa Clause appeared through the door, it was magical.
Rosy Temple, CEO Magee Clothing & Retail: My memory is a Christmas one too actually, I would go into the Magee of Donegal shop on the Diamond with dad and it was so exciting. We would end up in there for hours with dad insisting on wishing Happy Christmas to absolutely everybody! It was always a lovely way to start Christmas.
Patrick, CEO of Magee Weaving: When Charlotte and I were small, every now and then we were allowed into the weaving to pick up some off-cuts, beautiful but flawed cloth that wasn’t suitable for its end result in fashion. So, we used to take the fabric and bring it home to build dens and tents to play in.
Best thing about working with family.
Patrick: One of the wonderful things about a family business is the atmosphere, less corporate and still, this gives a sense of togetherness and happiness throughout the organisation.
Charlotte: For me the best part is that my siblings and father are always there. No matter day or night, if there’s a problem or you haven’t had such a good day, they’re always at the end of the phone.
Rosy: After working in other companies, I don’t take for granted what a real privilege it is to have had the opportunity to join a family business. For me, it’s just so great to be able to share so many experiences with family and to share a passion and pour our energies into something we really believe in. But I do have my boundaries, we can’t talk about weaving all day every day!
Favourite Christmas family tradition
Rosy: Christmas day swim.
Charlotte: …followed by dad’s mulled wine with Cointreau!
As we begin to wind down for the year and get ready to enjoy the festive break, as a family we would like to thank you for your continued support and wish you all the best for 2022. We will be continuing with long standing family traditions, including daily dips in the sea and the golden rule, no work chat at the Christmas dinner table!
We hope you get the chance to share joy with the ones you love this year.
From our family to yours, we wish you a very happy Christmas and new year.
A really exciting addition to our Home Interiors Collection, just in time for Christmas gifting, Irish Wool throws have arrived.
A truly sustainable choice crafted in 100% Irish wool, this launch represents a milestone as the first home interiors pieces in the Magee 1866 X Irish Wool collection.
At Magee 1866, we are committed to developing and using Irish Wool in our textiles. Over the past number of years, we have been working closely with Donegal Yarns, a local yarn supplier just up the road in Kilcar, and farmers to source finer wool from Irish sheep to re-ignite positivity around this fantastic and ‘local’ raw material.
The wool is then spun by Donegal Yarns, ready to be woven into fabric at our mill in Donegal Town where we have been weaving for five generations and over 150 years.
Designed, woven and finished at our mill in a contemporary oversized houndstooth pattern, the Irish Wool throw is available in two colours and finished with thick tasselled fringing. The perfect piece to showcase this unique fabric.
This is a truly sustainable home accessory that is made with longevity in mind.
Share joy this Christmas, treat the ones you love to a gift from Magee 1866.
Our gift guides have been carefully curated to bring together the best present ideas from across our collections.
Whether you want to spread good cheer, say thanks or ‘I missed you’, you can be assured that each piece has been designed and made with longevity in mind and will be enjoyed and treasured for years to come.
For that extra special someone, choose from our signature Donegal Tweed jackets and outerwear. Timeless styles that will wow and impress, featuring the exquisite finishing touches associated with Magee 1866.
Nothing says Christmas like cosy knitwear. Our selection takes this to the next level with luxurious cashmere blends for him and her, these are pieces we would be thrilled to find under the tree.
For homegrown gifting, look no further than our Made in Ireland guide showcasing our range scarves, pashminas and throws proudly designed and woven at our mill in Donegal, as well as pieces in collaboration with other Irish makers and mills, such as our hand poured candles.
A really exciting addition to our Home Interiors collection, just in time for Christmas, the new Magee 1866 X Irish Wool throws are designed and woven at our mill using wool sourced from Irish farms and spun in Donegal. A continuation of our commitment to sustainability and developing Irish wool for use in our textiles.
Look to our Donegal Tweed accessories for fantastic stocking fillers, from keyrings to purses to the classic flat cap. And if you are just not sure, you can’t go wrong with a Magee 1866 voucher.
Join us in finding fun in the little moments, giving thanks and celebrating family.
We hope you find inspiration and share joy this year.
In a continuation of our commitment to developing Irish wool for use in our textiles, we are proud to present the latest additions to the Magee 1866 X Irish Wool collection.
At Magee 1866, we are part of a wider movement to develop and use Irish Wool in our textiles. We have been working with Donegal Yarns, a local yarn supplier just up the road in Kilcar on sourcing wool from Irish farms across the country.
Patrick Temple, CEO of Magee Weaving has also teamed up with sheep farmer James Lorinko to develop fine Irish Wool on the family farm at Rathforker, just outside Donegal Town and with fields overlooking the Atlantic.
The wool is then spun by Donegal Yarns and designed and woven into fabric at our Mill in Donegal Town. The tweed is washed in the peaty waters of the River Eske resulting in a beautifully soft finish.
This season sees three new styles in Irish Wool.
The Irish Wool Jessicais a classic swing coat in a bold, oversized charcoal, red and white check, the perfect style for winter race meets or days outdoors.
The Irish Wool Millyis an unlined, unstructured blazer style jacket in a charcoal and red houndstooth Donegal Tweed. This easy to wear piece will quickly become your new go-to jacket.
The first men’s piece to launch in the Magee 1866 X Irish Wool Collection is the Erne. A bestselling style, this short, contemporary Donegal Tweed overcoat is woven in a rich red, green, grey and navy check and is perfect for layering over suits and jackets. Coming soon…
Irish sheep are synonymous with our landscape, but are not known for their soft wool. At Magee 1866 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 introduce Irish Wool into our collections.
This all began in 2016 with Patrick Temple, CEO of Magee Weaving, having a conversation with Chris Weiner of Donegal Yarns. It was the 150th anniversary of the company, and Patrick had been reviewing the extensive weaving archives and noted that in the past, Irish wool had a strong presence in our collections.
With that, the idea was born to work together to encourage Irish farmers to breed sheep for their wool.
Wool as a natural fibre has been used in textiles for centuries. Magee was founded on handwoven tweed in the 1800’s. This hardwearing, coarse fabric was handwoven across Donegal by part-time fishermen and farmers as the perfect fabric for dissipating the damp and cold weather, so often found in North-west Ireland, a far cry from the luxurious cloths being produced today.
Our ethos as a company has always been slow fashion and to use natural fibres, with the global drive towards a more sustainable future this has never been more relevant. Wool encompasses this aim perfectly – it is natural, biodegradable, recyclable and renewable.
Due to our climate, wool from Irish sheep traditionally has a rougher handle (the fibres are shorter) than their southern hemisphere counterparts and is more often used in carpeting than in clothing, but unfortunately the demand in recent years for this product has been steadily declining.
In Ireland sheep are bred for their milk and meat. There are over 2.5 million sheep here and their wool is currently classified as ‘waste’ with little to no value. Over the last year spinners, weavers and designers are looking to new ways to use this natural product and re-classify its use in order to give it value and properly develop the end use.
Today, we are working closely with farmers and Donegal Yarns to source finer wool from Irish sheep to re-ignite positivity around this fantastic and ‘local’ raw material. The wool is sourced from across Ireland and spun in Kilcar, ready to be designed and woven into luxurious fabrics at our mill in Donegal Town.
For Spring Summer 2021 the Emma Coat is our first piece to showcase Irish Wool. This contemporary, oversized coat with patch pockets is available in two soft, misty colours. Our design team have drawn inspiration from our natural surroundings in Donegal for this unique fabric – blue-grey skies, the sea, rocks and lichen. Launching in Spring (more associated with lighter-weight fabrics) we wanted to create colours and a piece that would work all year round in a wool – a soft grey & cream and blue & grey.
We have been weaving for 5 generations, like us, Irish Wool is not here today and gone tomorrow. We are in this for the long haul, and look forward to making Irish Wool a part of our future across our collections.
We are excited to announce the introduction of Irish Wool in our collections. A project very close to our hearts and something that has been in the pipeline for some time.
At Magee 1866 we are part of the wider movement towards a more sustainable future and we are committed to developing and using Irish Wool in our collections. We are working with Donegal Yarns, a local yarn supplier beside us in Kilcar, on sourcing wool from Irish farms across the country.
The raw wool is then spun by Donegal Yarns into fine yarn and designed and woven into luxury cloth at our Mill in Donegal Town.
Our commitment doesn’t end there, Patrick Temple, CEO of Magee Weaving, and fifth generation family member, has also teamed up with sheep farmer James Lorinyenko to develop fine Irish Wool on the family farm at Rathforker, just outside Donegal Town with fields overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
For Spring Summer 2021 the Emma Coat is our first piece to showcase Irish Wool. A contemporary, oversized coat with patch pockets. Available in two soft, misty colours – inspired by Donegal skies, the sea, stone walls and lichen. A blue & grey and grey & cream Donegal tweed. We hope you will love these pieces as much as we do.
Irish Wool is not here today and gone tomorrow, we are in for the long haul and this movement will evolve season after season through our collections. Keep an eye out for more in our AW21 collection.