Alanagh Clegg is a Textile designer whose thoughtfully considered graduate exhibition highlighted the importance of ethically made and sustainable materials. Inspired by a family business of hand crafting, her work explores traditions of techniques that have been passed down through generations.
1. When did you start incorporating sustainability into your design practice?
Four Threads came to life when I was visiting an ethical garment factory in India made up of 20 women artisans who celebrate their skills which have been passed down through generations by hand making garments. The first day I visited the factory, I witnessed fashion being produced sustainably and with so much care and detail so I decided to set up the brand that day. You could say the idea of sustainably producing a collection was the very idea which started my design practice.
A fully transparent supply chain is a key detail in my practice. I can proudly stand over any aspect of my practice and know the people or processes involved are created with care and ethically driven. The collection has been curated over time through a number of timeless garments which are made to be lived in and loved for a lifetime. The approach to producing a Four Threads item draws from the four aims of our ethos: inspired, handmade, quality and conscious.
The approach to producing a Four Threads item draws from the four aims of our ethos: inspired, handmade, quality and conscious.
2. Where do you source your materials?
The Irish Linen used within the collection comes locally from Wexford manufactured by family run business, Emblem Weavers. I visited the factory many times when sourcing new fabrics to see how the process works from yarn to cloth. Using the finest quality flax, the yarn is woven by their team of skilled machinists who have been perfecting this traditional Irish fabric over time.
I source my hand woven cotton and silk from India where I met with the weavers to see how they begin with picked cotton, spinning it into yarn on an old spinning wheel and then into beautiful lengths of fresh khadi cotton. Khadi is in itself a celebration of ‘perfect imperfection’, with each yard visibly bearing the mark of hand craftsmanship.
Pronounced in the 1920s by Mahatma Gandhi as a ‘symbol of unity’, this industry continues to provide generations of Indian craftspeople with a sustainable livelihood. I am very interested in the production of textiles and often a design begins with finding a weaver who is creating something special which carries tradition and meaning to them.
3. You visited the garment factory in Western Gujarat (India) last year, can you tell us a little about this experience?
The first time I visited the factory was during my final year at NCAD studying Textiles, I was writing my thesis on the production of hand-crafted textiles in India. Upon arriving into the light flooded workshop, I was met by more than fifteen smiling faces. Women of all ages wearing colourful saris which I later learned were passed down from generations.
I was walked through the production process from start to finish, each woman showing me their own role in the process. Sitting crossed-legged by a large window, I was shown how to embroider the perfect button hole on fine cotton by hand. The care they put into each stitch they were working on took me by surprise. To see their love for hand crafting ignited my desire to create Four Threads and celebrate these skills of hand crafting garments in Ireland.
4. Have you faced any challenges or obstacles as an emerging Irish designer?
Yes, everyday is met with new challenges when beginning a design business. To be a designer I believe you are naturally a creative with so much passion for your craft it can be difficult to merge into a business woman by afternoon to balance budgets and forecast growth in profitability. In addition to marketing your own work, trying to balance boosting your social media whilst hemming a pair of trousers can be a challenge. The obstacles are usually met with achievements which make the studio an exciting creative space.
In addition to marketing your own work, trying to balance boosting your social media whilst hemming a pair of trousers can be a challenge.
5. Are there any other designers in Ireland that you look up to or respect for their practice as a sustainable or ethical designer?
Living in Ireland I think Knitwear is an essential part of any wardrobe. Liadain Aiken is a designer who I have admired for a few years. Her playful use of colour and locally sourced yarn is the perfect addition to a quite minimal wardrobe like mine. Each piece she creates is made with love and handmade in Dublin. The idea of having unique garment which has not been mass produced and carries meaning through the crafting of it excites me.