Inis Meáin; a high quality, handmade knitwear brand has become one of the latest labels to be stocked by the online men’s fashion giant MR PORTER. Unlike many of the fashion labels supplied by MR PORTER, being based in the big fashion capitals of the world; Inis Meáin is unusually located on a small island in Galway bay, Ireland. The knitwear brand was initially inspired by the local craft of the island and the historic hand production of Aran sweaters for locals to wear as Sunday best. With employment options very limited on the island, its founder, Mr de Blacam, who initially moved to the island with a population of 180 to learn Irish Gaelic, endeavoured, along with his wife, to reverse the tide of young emigration to the main land by employing locals for all operations involved in the brand. Today, graduates from the Limerick College of Art and design interns from the University of Ulster thrive on developing their craft in such a studio.
Established in 1976, the founders had no expertise in the craft but an intense interest in the local way of life and landscape. The highly intricate patterns of the traditional white sweaters worn by girls and boys for their first communion and confirmation are still used as inspiration for the creatively constructed pieces the brand sell today. In contrast to the 1950’s knitwear trend which led to many merchants requiring white, luxury pieces to meet the demand in the US, Inis Meáin wanted their products to be more modern and suitable for everyday.
Colour experimentation is key in this modernisation in order to satisfy the international clients. The skilled designers look to the shades that can be identified in the scenery of the island, including grey limestone cliffs, green grass expanses and patches of wildflowers. This is immediately identifiable in Inis Meáin’s launch collection on MR PORTER: the colours in the Donegal Merino Wool and Cashmere-Blend Rollneck Sweater particularly portray that of the Irish cliffs.
The brand has also been significantly inspired by the fishing heritage of the Irish island; aged photographs playing a prominent part in the research process. Teamed with the idiosyncratic stitches and patterns, the practicality elements of the work wear, such as durable patches and panels have been incorporated into the knitwear designs to create new shapes and silhouettes. A key example of this is the best selling blazer-like cardigan ‘pub jacket’, a re-imagined fisherman’s jumper with lanolin soaked patches for reinforcement and cashmere inserts at the neck and underarm for warmth. Although this style is not currently available on MR PORTER, you can definitely see elements of the garment that have filtered into the stocked jackets, and no doubt there will be many more modern variations to come.
In his quest to modernise the traditional craft, Inis Meáin’s founder brought in knitwear designers and technicians along with the latest machinery to the island. It was a stark contrast to when the brand was first established, having no electricity or running water, and thus the studios was powered by a generator. 2018 sees a manufacturing space home to various high-tech Japanese knitting machines operating alongside expert hand-knitters manually finishing the garments. The whole production process occurs under one scenic roof, ensuring only exceptionally high quality pieces are produced. In addition to jumpers, jackets and cardigans, the brand has stocked MR PORTER with woolly accessories using a mix of traditional and modern production methods.
Another highly unusual element to the brand is the small runs and rather extensive line of styles the brand showcases each season, with some 50 styles per season. Each item is in effect a one of a kind, limited edition design luxury fabrics, so ideal for the MR PORTER Consumer. The brand sources yarns from abroad as the craft of spinning has not been so successful in modern society, however, Mr Tarlach de Blacam insists on using only the finest quality materials such as Mongolian cashmere, silk, South American alpaca wool and European linen that provides soft textures as opposed to traditional scratchy pieces.
In this modern world our interests lie evermore in the story behind the brand; the ‘admirability’ of their ethos; and, of course, how ‘instagrammable’ the studios are. Inis Meáin tick these boxes brilliantly, making it no surprise that MR PORTER approached the label.
Each Inis Meáin fisherman style sweater on MR PORTER promises to be hand finished and crafted from Donegal wool and cashmere using traditional Aran stitching. A favourite piece of ours from the first capsule collection on the platform is the Orange Two-Toned Ribbed Merino Wool Sweater. Comprised of contrasting shades of brick and orange, the rolled, crew neck jumper with ribbed trims has an interesting and intriguing layered effect.
Now also supplied in key, high end boutiques worldwide, Inis Meáin is re-establishing the island’s name for its craftsmanship and beauty globally. We most certainly fancy a weekend away at Mr De Blacam’s chef son’s ultra-locavore restaurant! Complete with guest rooms to enjoy the island’s rich traditions and apparently the best scuba diving in Europe!
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