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IN CONVERSATION WITH TARLACH DE BLÁCAM OF INIS MEÁIN
Written by Menswear Style in Interviews on the 22nd September 2020 / In Conversation with Tarlach de Blácam of Inis Meáin
Inis Meáin, established in 1976, is a luxury design and manufacturing company. Inis Meáin is one of the Aran Islands situated off the west coast of Ireland. Renowned for its unique history of knitting, it is a tradition that has been refined by the advance of time and technology and then reinterpreted for each collection in the finest of yarns. Bright and subtle colours, inspired by land, rock and sea, reflect the seasons. This is the island where all the clothes that bear the Inis Meáin name and symbol of the upturned currach boat are made and exported all over the world.
In a recent episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interviewed Inis Meáin Founder Tarlach de Blácam about how the business was first set up with the aim to provide jobs for the younger residents so they wouldn't need to leave the island for work. Today they have 50 different knitwear styles that are sold globally within stores such as Todd Snyder, Bergdorf Goodman, Beams and Anderson & Sheppard. Our host Peter Brooker and Tarlach also discuss the heritage and how Aran sweaters are world renowned, hand knitting, life on the wild Atlantic island, and growing an online business.
Please tell us how the brand was born
“We operate from a tiny little island off the West Coast of Ireland. Inis Meáin is one of the Aran Islands which straddles Galway Bay. It is traditionally Gaelic speaking and I would come here many years ago as a student studying Celtic languages which is a fabulous degree. The Professors would send their students here to learn Irish, and I just loved the place. Then I met a young lady that was teaching in Dublin who was from the Island and after we got married we decided to move here. It was crazy when I think of it because we didn’t have electricity of running water. In the early days I got involved in all sorts of community development to help try and get things moving, and we set up this little industry for the youngsters. All the young people here at that time - particularly the women – would be involved within the small craft industry. The Aran Islands are famous for knitwear and you’ve probably heard of the ‘Aran Sweater’ which is a highly decorated sweater originally knitted by the locals in white for little children for their first communion or confirmation, which was a right of passage for Catholics in Ireland. There was a small cottage industry built on that.”
“Then in the 60s and 70s there were people such as Steve McQueen and Marilyn Monroe pictured wearing these knitted garments, and the Aran Sweater then became very famous. However, there was a lot more to the repertoire of the local knitters than that one sweater. That is something that particular fascinated me, and when we started the brand, we knew we needed to do something different. We put a lot of work into developing our own label. We started knitting based on the tradition and took ideas from the archives of what the knitters used to knit here over the years. We found lots of unique patterns and introduced new stitches and ways of doing things, colour and softer qualities. We’ve grown the company year by year, and this year we have a substantial collection of 50 different styles in a huge range of colours and qualities. It sounds simple but this has taken us 40 years and we’ve made mistakes along the way. We launch something new and unique every season because we’re supplying the top menswear stores globally."
This is a shortened transcribed edit of episode 82 of the MenswearStyle Podcast with Tarlach de Blácam of inismeain.ie. You can listen to the full version below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast player.