Magee of Donegal

Thursday, 4 January 2024
Magee of Donegal

Magee, a fifth-generation Irish family business, boasts an impressive legacy spanning over 150 years in the art of crafting exquisite fabrics and clothing in the heart of Donegal.

The journey began over a century and a half ago when John Magee laid the foundation for this enduring enterprise. In the 1860s, he embarked on a venture that would shape the fabric of this family-run enterprise. The story unfolds at the Ardara Homespun Market in County Donegal, a local cloth fair steeped in tradition. Here, John Magee bought and sold handwoven tweed, a practice that had been integral to the region for centuries.

Robert & Howard Magee

This was the start of Magee’s journey into textiles. Donegal Tweed, a woollen fabric characterised by flecks of colour and distinctive ‘salt and pepper’ or ‘herringbone’ patterns, became the beating heart of Magee Weaving. Inspired by the rugged coastal and mountainous landscapes of the region, this iconic fabric laid the foundation for what Magee is today. In the late 19th century, John Magee established a small draper’s shop in Donegal, Ireland, setting the stage for what would become a longstanding tradition of quality craftsmanship. It was here that Magee recognized the sales prowess of his cousin, Robert Temple (1866–1958), during a transaction with a local hotel manager over a few woodcocks. In 1901, Temple became an apprentice and a partial owner of the company. A decade later, he acquired full ownership from his cousin. The early days saw the creation of robust, coarse fabrics, lovingly handwoven by part-time fishermen and farmers across Donegal, this fabric, born out of necessity to combat the region’s damp and cold weather, stands in stark contrast to the luxurious textiles produced by Magee today.

Throughout the 20th century, Magee solidified its position as the hub of design and weaving in Donegal. In 1918, they transitioned hand-weavers into a factory setting, and by the 1970s, power looms were introduced. This progression ensured that the tradition of crafting exceptional fabrics continued to thrive while embracing modern manufacturing techniques. Fast forward to the present, and the legacy continues with the third and fourth generations of the Temple family at the helm. Lynn, Charlotte, Paddy, and Rosy carry forward the tradition, ensuring that Magee’s heritage of crafting exceptional fabrics and clothing endures for generations to come.

“To me, our design philosophy hinges on the balance of our heritage with a contemporary slant and the creative flair of our designers.”

Charlotte Temple, Design Director of Magee
The Magee Factory today.

Today, Magee effortlessly melds their rich weaving legacy with modern design, crafting opulent fabrics within the heart of County Donegal. Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword; it’s an integral part of their ethos, aligning with the growing environmental awareness of our world today.

For over 150 years, Magee has been a steward of sustainability, primarily focusing on ‘natural fibres.’ These materials are not only biodegradable but also crafted from renewable resources, making them an eco-conscious choice. In addition to their enduring commitment to wool, Magee has also honed their expertise in working with other vital natural fibres like Irish linen, cashmere, and silk. This harmonious fusion of heritage and eco-responsibility is the cornerstone of Magee’s enduring success.

Cordings and Magee

Cordings have been partnering Magee for decades; our Donegal suits and mens and ladies coats created using their cloth are perennial favourites within the collection. Authenticity is at the heart of what we do at Cordings and Magee, with their centuries old heritage and ‘handed down through the generations’ experience are an important part of our collections.

The design , coloration, quality , weight & handle of the fabrics we collaborate with Magee on are the very best of Irish weaving and therefore perfect for Cordings.

Justin Sumrie, Cordings Menswear Buyer
Glenveagh, County Donegal, Ireland. Magees back drop and inspiration today.