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Fia Celebrates Weaving Tradition

Fia Clothing is taking the high ground and wants you to do so, too.

The luxurious new apparel brand is built upon Ireland’s renown as a nation of weavers, but also around modern ideas of environmental sustainability.

The company’s website credits Anna Sheehan, a college student who is fluent in Irish and Spanish, as a big influence in Fia’s putting concepts like ethical sourcing front and center in the way it does business.

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The Irish Echo asked her mom, Fiona Sheehan, some questions about Fia Clothing as the Killiney, Co. Dublin-based company launches its debut collection of scarves, caps, sweaters, cardigans, throws, capes, etc. in the U.S.

Tell us something about your background and how you got into the business.

In 1999, I worked in the shipping industry. One of our customers, Michael Latchford from Tralee, ran a wholesale business of Irish manufactured goods to the North American Celtic Market. We acquired the business from him and have spent the past 20 years promoting Irish brands in this market. During this time, I gained a lot of insight into what customers want and what they value.

My daughter Anna was also born in 1999, so from an early age has been involved in the business whether it was traveling with me to trade shows or in more recent years working with me within the business. Together we created the Fia brand based on our years of experience in Latchfords of Ireland and our love for natural materials and our local suppliers.

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What does weaving mean in the modern context? What is the manufacturing process?

Weaving has been around for centuries and is deeply ingrained in Irish culture. Our materials are woven by various mills throughout Ireland. The amount of work and detail that goes into making wearable fabrics is amazing. The process in modern times is done by machine, which of course is faster but still requires input from skilled weavers. At Fia we celebrate a fusion of traditional and contemporary weaving techniques. Should you have the opportunity to visit Kerry Woollen Mills in Beaufort, Co. Kerry, we highly recommend taking the factory tour where you can see the weaving process from start to finish.

People love lambswool. Tell us about it.

Lambswool is literally wool from lambs. It is extremely soft, warm and durable, so it wears well, and it is ideal for clothing. Lambswool is a natural fibre that is breathable and a favorite among knitters and spinners. While sheep’s wool is notorious for being itchy, lambswool is softer and less likely to cause irritation.

Define tweed for the layperson.

Tweed has been central to Irish style since the 1800s. If you have ever owned a flat cap the chances are it is already in your wardrobe. It is a natural fibre textile, woven with a soft, open weave and made from wool. Tweed was traditionally hand-woven on a loom. Today, although the entire process has been mechanized, the process is for the most part the same.

What is ethical sourcing for Fia?

We believe it makes good business sense to source ethically. It is a sustainable and responsible approach. We go beyond formal scheduled, clipboard-based site visits. We have spent years building relationships with our suppliers and we work only with suppliers who share our vision to Take The High Ground.

At what point did you feel that there was a market for your clothing line beyond Ireland’s shores?

I created Fia Clothing from the onset with the North American market in mind. It is a market I know and love. I am so passionate about bringing a little bit of Ireland to the world. In the past six months we have found that there is an appetite for Fia clothing in Ireland, too. Especially this year, people are trying to shop local and support local businesses.

What does Anna bring in terms of skills and sensibility?

Anna brings new energy and fresh perspective. She is eager to learn and enthusiastic. This is great for productivity and morale in the company. Like most young people she has a natural affinity for technology. When unexpected circumstances arise, as we saw this year, the youth of today are better equipped to respond to sudden change. This is hugely beneficial in the ever-shifting modern landscape.

Go to fiaclothing.com for more information.