The Tweed Project
"It was here on the Long Walk one day last January, It was a nice day in the middle of that terrible stormy winter. I stood out of the car and I just said "I'm doing this" and she said "I'm doing this too" - It was a very strong connected feeling. It's emotional, It is something that is very deep."
The words of Aoibheann McNamara, one half of The Tweed Project, the 'she' that Aoibheann refers to is Triona Lillis - the other half.
On meeting these two business partners, who are the force behind The Tweed Project, I soon come to realise that this project, is indeed based on a very solid foundation.
"We work so well together, it's extraordinary. Our ideology is in tandem yet it is able to move."
Triona and Aoibheann's paths had crossed and they had mingled in and out of each other's company through mutual friends over the years, which is often the case in the social, yet small enough bubbling city of Galway.
They came together through a more purposeful route in the shape of 'Re-Group', a gathering that Aoibheann initiated in 2013.
"It's mummy's in business, not everyone is a mummy actually. 'Mummy's in business is almost 'dumming' it down, but the reality is that mothers in business are often wracked with guilt, juggling so much. It is a very private group of about 8 people. A lot of collaboration's have come out of it."
"When you are doing something on your own, it is amazing to have a group of peers that you can turn to. It's good to have peer pressure to spur yourself on - accountability without being pressurised."
It was in this group that their friendship was solidified.
Triona Lillis has a background in costume design, working with companies all over Ireland. 18 months ago she opened Astór, which she explained, helped her to hone her skills under the umbrella of one brand.
Aoibheann McNamara opened Ard Bia 12 years ago.
"I studied art history but was never really an artist. I've been interested in the aesthetic all my life. Throughout the years I have always been involved in creative projects with creative people"
Hailing from Donegal, knitting and tweed was always part of the social and economic fabric for Aoibheann and both women have always been aware and very committed to indigenous industries.
Following a trip to Donegal in January of this year, Triona and Aoibheann were steadfast and single-minded in regard to their prospective venture.
"We were totally committed to doing something here in Ireland. We have a mutual passion. This is a very exciting project for us because it comes from a very deep place."
Thus - The Tweed Project - was born.
A new ethical fashion label that is firmly based in Ireland.
Whilst the main inspiration for The Tweed Project is the landscape, the aspiration is that the project will become an international fashion label - One that is made and conceived in Ireland, crafted with Irish fabrics and that can be worn by anybody worldwide.
"We want an international label. We want to be in concept stores in Japan, in Berlin, to do collaboration's and conceptualise the project."
There are seven lines to the label at the moment: A signature Tweed Blanket; Tweed Trousers; Tweed Culottes; Short and long sleeved linen shirts; Tote Bag; Tweed Apron and a T. Shirt. All items are unisex and are made to order.
The linen comes from Baird McNutt's and the tweed is sourced from Molloy & Sons, a weaving and textile company based on the wild northern Atlantic coast in Donegal. Talking to Triona and Aoibheann, I could sense that in Molloy and Son they had found the crafted textile that they had yearned for to initiate this project.
"We source the Tweed from Molloy and Sons in my home town of Ardara" explains Aoibheann "It is a father and son company and has the most amazing quality. We went up and met with them, went for a walk and it all felt very connected. The trip, meeting them, the landscape, it is what became the foundation of our inspiration."
Triona explains that all the colours and tones used in the tweed are based on the landscape surrounding Molloy and Sons, where the yarn is spun and dyed and the tweed is woven.
"The brown is the bog, the purple is the heather, the blue is the sky, the green the sea and the grey is the stone."
This inspirational palate becomes so clear to me when I see the Tweed Project's signature garment:
'The Blanket' - A large tweed blanket shawl, with hues and pigments of the wild Donegal terrain, all the essence of nature woven into one piece of fabric - that can be worn in four different ways!
I must add, that as a woman who constantly wanders around from autumn until spring with a large woven scarf wrapped and tied around her in a knot, this is a clever creation. The colours are magnetic and the design practical and stylish.
"What is lovely about these clothes is that they are made in Ireland by Irish people using Irish fabrics. I feel very proud when I put on that shirt and blanket, the feel of them, the tailoring". states Aoibheann.
"Once you have the products you have them for a lifetime. That is what you are buying - The quality".
The Tweed Project, is very firmly based on the aesthetic and colour palate of nature, this coupled with it's owners' and creators' curiosity, style and passion, gives it a fresh and clean approach to a textile that many associate with tradition.
"Tweed can have an association with tweeness. We want a minimal contemporary look and feel. We will be de-constructing and re-constructing items."
Triona adds -
"Tweed is quite heavy and thick to work with, you are limited in what you can do. The cut we have achieved is beautiful, but in the future we would like reach out to other indigenous companies, say in India to source cashmere that we can incorporate into the Tweed, to make it even more workable for us."
The Tweed Project is 100% self funded at the moment and is based in Galway City. Both partners have invested time and resources, but are positive about the future
"There is a creative bubble of energy in this country at the moment, momentum is building. There is a little bit of a steady gallop and we want to jump on it. A lot of great things are happening, it feels good that we can stand together - We can collectively take our indigenous industry and re-ignite it."
It is such a breadth of fresh air to hear and share in both Triona and Aoibheann's positivity and practicality. I asked the women what advice they would give to others' thinking of jumping on to that steady galloping horse?
"Anything you do in your life has to be fully conceived. The Ideology has to be fully thought through - So if you do something that has been fully conceived and from your heart, it comes from a good place - It is quality. Instead of focusing on lots of research and looking at the demography you want to attract, have a strong belief in it yourself and go with it!"
...And you know what, they are so right -
In the throw-away culture that we live in today, investing in ethical indigenous, Irish made clothes, that signify something special to those that have made and conceived them - From the first spinning of the yarn to the moment you wear them - Clothes that will last a lifetime, that are stylish, contemporary, yet still based on a deep connection with our heritage and natural landscape -
It sounds like more than a good idea to me.
*Photo Shoot pictures are courtesy of ©The Tweed Project 2014