A brief introduction to Inis Meain…
Island existence has always required independence, resourcefulness and innovation. Inis Meáin Knitting Company in the Aran Islands was born into this spirit of independence and resourcefulness.
The collections that we design in Inis Meáin are inspired by the traditional dress of the islanders and our environment — with a touch of luxury.
The rugged outdoor island lifestyle calls for practical, quality clothing, along with this the islanders always had a sense of style, in 1907 the writer JM Synge reflected:
“The simplicity and unity of the dress increases in another way the local air of beauty”
For centuries Inis Meáin fishermen have braved the tempestuous waters, wearing only woollen jumpers as a means of protection against the weather. These practical garments were hand-knitted by the island’s women-folk from the local wools – greys and browns – naturally warm and wind resistant and water-proofed by the sheep’s oily lanolin; a necessity when exposed, miles from the shore, doused in sea-spray at best, drenched in stormy waves at worst. Yet these resilient and restrained jumpers also had a flourish of decoration, often for luck, in attempt to appease the ever-present threat of working the sea, feeding human nature’s innate need for satisfying superstition.
It is this combination of practicality and aesthetics that Tarlach de Blacam, founder of Inis Meáin Knitting Company, has nurtured and evolved. A graduate in Celtic languages from Trinity College originally, Tarlach was drawn to the island and its Gaelic traditions, like so many more academics and artists who had visited before him. However, Tarlach settled there and set about helping to promote and sustain the island’s authenticity as well as its economic viability, by helping evolve the cottage industry of clothing the men-folk and tempting the passing tourists and turning it into a global brand, providing valuable employment as well as an assured continuation of the island’s identity and heritage.Merchant and Makers Interview