Friday 24 February 2017

Modern classics from Magee

Liadan Hynes

Liadan Hynes

Violet wears: shirt (from menswear), €125; trousers (from menswear), €130; pashmina, €179.Jago wears: Jacket, €259; shirt, €120; trousers, €130
Violet wears: shirt (from menswear), €125; trousers (from menswear), €130; pashmina, €179.Jago wears: Jacket, €259; shirt, €120; trousers, €130

It is a little-known fact that Donegal brand, Magee, designs and creates some of the most sought-after luxurious fabrics for the world's finest fashion houses. Innovation, as well as heritage, has always been the heart of this family-run business. "We've got all this heritage, bags of heritage," says Charlotte Temple. This year, her family's business, Magee 1866, celebrates its 150th anniversary. It began life as a draper's shop that sold hand-woven tweed, then Robert Temple, a cousin of John Magee, bought the business in 1900, and it has been in the family since.

Today, Charlotte's father is the chairman, while she serves as retail and design director, and her brother Paddy is CEO of Magee Weaving. The company still employs a number of handweavers.

The ready-to-wear business first developed in the 1930s. Traditionally, Magee 1866 had focused on formal menswear - jackets and suits. Survival has been a huge part of its heritage. Over the last number of years, it has started to build its casual wear, and has reflected the trend for slimmer silhouettes.

Its womenswear offering, which first started roughly a decade ago, has mostly been Donegal tweed jackets and coats. "We're really starting to push the boat out now," says Charlotte, reflecting that, over this season and into next year, the aim is to provide a complete collection of separates and dresses, alongside the existing offering of coats and jackets.

"Smart weekend wear. We're never going to have tracksuits," she laughs. There will also be a move towards softer, less structured silhouettes in coats and jackets. "Making it a little bit more contemporary, using tweed in a different way," she explains, pointing to the yellow tweed biker jacket (see page 33). "So many people think of tweed as a traditional product, but there's so much more you can do with it."

Appealing to a younger, more fashion-focused customer, while staying true to the rich heritage of the brand and not alienating their original customer, is a tricky balance. "We are trying to maintain our heritage, while putting a contemporary slant on it," explains Charlotte of her aim.

It is to be achieved, she says, by tweaking the styling of the garments. When it comes to menswear, this means "slightly shorter jackets, narrower lapels". The classic styles and fits will remain, but she reflects that even their older customer is generally happy to go for a more tailored garment. "The Irish male has changed; become more fashion conscious," she says. "It's a classic fit, but the silhouette is a little sharper."

As well as expanding the men's and womenswear lines, the company's overall goal is to become a lifestyle brand; it is currently extending its soft furnishings offering. It's a huge challenge, but one which Charlotte is more than capable of.

"It's a slow process, so I've learned. I'm an impatient person," says Charlotte. But it's exciting."

Photography by  Alex Hutchinson

Styling by  Courtney Smith

Words by Liadan Hynes

Fashion edited by  Constance Harris

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