Spinning a yarn with McNutt of Donegal
Found in almost all of our bedrooms, throws from McNutt of Donegal are a feat of craftsmanship. A family-run business on the Wild Atlantic Coast of Ireland, we are proud to stock their wonderfully made, high quality throws and cushions made up in matching fabrics across the AHC – and so we decided to put the kettle on and get to know our friends a little more. Read on to learn about their story, including how Kenzo fits into it all, and how to have a slice of the AHC at home. They’re also kindly offering our readers 10% off when using the code AHMAY20. Happy reading and happier shopping!
A cuppa with William McNutt, Production Manager of McNutt of Donegal
William, can you tell us about the history of your family business, McNutt of Donegal, and how yourself and your brother have come today to be running the business?
My Father set the business up in the early 1950’s. In those early days they were handweaving Donegal tweed. Over the years there have been many changes as the business first moved into fashion fabrics which end up on the catwalks of Paris and Milan. Later the emphasis moved to Irish linen fabrics and then around 10 years ago the emphasis changed to accessories; blankets throws scarfs etc.
Where do you source your raw materials?
Our raw materials come from the great yarn spinners of the world. Lambswool yarns from Yorkshire, Cashmere from Italy and Alpaca yarns from Peru.
Who comes up with new designs? What inspires them and what’s the process from concept to finished product?
Our prime focus is to look at our heritage and then add a contemporary twist for the modern world. Bright colours are also a big part of our signature. Designs tend to be an evolution and when we exhibit at Trade Shows we listen to the comments from the buyers which is a great up to date source for trends etc. Where else would you get so much free input from retail experts !
What separates McNutt of Donegal from other similar businesses?
Any textile related business expects to exist in a very competitive environment. Others can emulate your ideas but they cannot beat you on quality if you use premium fibres. Softness comes at a price. We like to think that our products have a certain “look” which brings differentiation.
How important is sustainability in the business? Do you have any tips you can share on keeping a retail business as green as possible?
We live in a rural environment on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The air here is probably the cleanest in Europe with 3,000 miles of ocean as our neighbour. We want to keep this great environment. We only weave natural fibres wool, linen cashmere and alpaca. All our energy is 100% from renewable wind power. All our products are expected to have a very long service life and at the end of it can be recycled again. We like to encourage consumers to buy 1 premium item which will outlast a cheaply made inferior item many times over and will actually cost less over the lifetime and certainly cost the planet at lot less too
We love our McNutt throws found in almost every bedroom at the Alexander Hotel Collection. How do you style your beds at home? Any tips on creating moods or statements with your soft furnishings?
A colourful throw is the perfect way to introduce a pop of colour to living spaces and to create a focal point.
Tell us about your wonderful location in Donegal – did you grow up there and does that history as well as the beautiful natural surroundings inspire the collections?
Yes we grew up here just 1 mile from the mill. I can see the beach and harbour from my desk. We need to go to the city occasionally just to remind us how lucky we are to live here. Even more so at the moment as it makes lockdown a lot more bearable. It keeps us very “grounded” to look out at the beautiful surroundings. Of course winters here can be tough as we really get blasted by the winter storms. You need to go at least 4 miles away from the coast before you see any trees. Our modern looms were supplied by a company in Switzerland and the gentleman who came here on his sales trips reckoned we were the only customer he had where he saw rain coming horizontally instead of vertically.
Which past or present designers would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Collaboration is a great way to look at things through another’s eyes. It can be challenging but when a collaboration is complete something new has always been learned and accomplished. I can still remember my father coming home for lunch one day with Kenzo who was working on a collaboration at that time. We have found over the years that designers love coming here for collaborations because the surroundings allows them to clear their heads and even years after their visit they still have such fond memories of their time spent here
What are your favourite pieces in the collection for the home right now?
Last year we introduced a new range of throws with lambswool and 10% cashmere. They feel like a million dollars when you touch them.
Do you have a favourite pattern, and if so, is there a story behind it?
I love the traditional herringbone patterns. My granny came to this area originally as part of a large group of herring fishermen from Scotland and they put Downings on the map. So in a strange way I think herring is in our DNA.
If our guests could only have one piece from McNutt, what would you say is the essential item you would recommend?
A soft lambswool throw to give the perfect balance between warmth and a lovely hand feel. These are the same items you see in your room when you stay in any of the Alexander Hotels.
Above, a Courtyard Suite at Barnett Hill, near Guildford, with bright blue throw from McNutt of Donegal and bespoke cushions in the same fabric.
Visit McNutt of Donegal at mcnuttofdonegal.com and use AHMAY20 to save 10%