Handweaving & clothing from Donegal, Ireland

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Contemporary designs drive sales at Studio Donegal

Tristan Donaghy sitting on a sofa covered in Studio Donegal handwoven tweed throws and cushionsFounded in Cill Charthaigh nearly 40 years ago by weaver Kevin Donaghy and his wife Wendy, Studio Donegal makes handwoven tweed throws, bed covers, blankets and cushions as well as clothing and accessories for men and women.

Now run by their son Tristan, the company has adapted to reach newer markets beyond its original fous as a supplier of handwoven and hand-knitted products to craft shops and tourist outlets.

"People would typically think of a business like ours as having a big market in North America selling to Irish American shops, but we're not in the business of making green caps with embroidered harps" said Tristan Donaghy.

"We're very serious about what we do. We started with the aim of preserving the tradition of handweaving and then realised we needed to go out and find the markets for that. I remember my father coming home from a trade show in America and saying we should stop flogging a dead horse, put the effort into designing and let the market find us."

The company now has customers in Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, italy and the US. It has been selling through an agent in Japan for the past two decades.

"We have more demand from a younger generation of Japanese entrepreneurs who want authentic Irish handwoven clothing and accessories, " said Donaghy. "We are getting more order for our handwoven clothing and accessory label from mainstream boutique shops in Japan and mail ordering catalogues there."

Studio Donegal has found another niche supplying interior textiles, including bed runners and cushion covers, to Dublin architect Lucy Jones for apartment and hotel developments in Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands.

The company employs 15 people. Its studio, mill and workshop are open to visitors each week from Monday to Friday.

"Everything with theStudio Donegal label is handwoven and made in Kilcar. We are the only genuine hand-weaving mill in Ireland", said Donaghy. "That will always be our hallmark. We still use some homespun yarn, which we produce on an early Victorian spinning mule."

Elaine O'Regan, Sunday Business Post