Anna Dobson grew up in a part of Ireland that has a strong tweed tradition. Local families of a generation or two ago didn’t just sew their own toasty warm garments for themselves and their children to keep the wintry Irish weather at bay. Many in the little Irish village in County Wicklow used wooden handlooms at home to weave their own tweed fabrics from scratch from the plentiful wool—sheared from the sheep, scoured, carded, combed, and spun into yarn—sold by local farmers.
Dobson recalls her father telling her how his aunt made most of his clothes when he was young.
But with the rise of globalization and industrialization, tweed and its handloom traditions went from being popular for generations to an expensive, scarce and novel commodity. “There aren't many weavers left in Ireland. There are probably five who will weave in bulk,” she says. “I think in Ireland; the traditional ways have mostly died with the mass market.”
But now, Anna Dobson, after a long successful career in textiles and fashion design working for others, is resurrecting those traditional hand-woven fabrics and clothes—and adding a few novel twists.
She began, of course, by researching the fabric—eventually choosing a soft, luxurious mohair lamb’s wool, manufactured by a traditional weaver in rural Donegal. Next, it was on to perfecting patterns. “I worked for about a year grading and sampling and making pieces for my own kids and friends.”
Once she was satisfied with her initial pieces, she launched Love Mo Chuisle
[pronounced Love Mu-KUSH-la], which is Gaelic for Love My Darling, registering the business in November of last year. By March, she was ready to take her first samples to a shop, with a plan of exclusively targeting the wholesale market in Ireland for the first eight months to a year.
The reception was enthusiastic. “I've had great response from a lot of the big shops in Ireland, as well as Shannon Airport, Kenny’s in Lahinch, Quills in Killarney, Kilkenny Designs in Kilkenny, The Design Loft in Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow and heritage places that have a lot of tourism and a large turnout of people coming through.” She’s also enjoyed quite a bit of local interest. “People buy the clothes for an occasion,” she says.
What sets Dobson’s designs apart from the usual staid tweed is a bit of whimsy. While she creates fashions in more traditional browns and grays, she often employs a richer pallet of fun colors when designing, especially for women and girls. Those colors can include rich blues, mustards, palm greens, and vibrant reds and golds. Her patterns go beyond traditional wear, while still echoing back to it. Love Mo Chuisle also features some matching outfits for adult and child along with accessory pieces.
On Love Mo Chuisle’s horizon may be an expansion beyond Ireland both in wholesale and in direct e-sales. Those future plans are getting an assist from the Bank of Ireland and WebPort Global.
Meanwhile, Anna Dobson has already won an award from the local chapter of Network Ireland, a business club for Irish woman entrepreneurs. Chosen as Woman of the Year in the Arts category, she will compete for the national honor in September.
More information about Love Mo Chuisle may be found at http://lovemochuisle.com/
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