An emotional feeling about Irish tweed - Anna Guerin makes coats with a difference

Designer Anna Guerin’s coats are ‘transitional’ pieces for cold, crisp days

Elk – dove grey herringbone Donegal tweed coa, €765.

Elk – dove grey herringbone Donegal tweed coa, €765.

 

“I have always had an emotional feeling about tweed,” says Anna Guerin, founder of The Dualist, a collection of handsome Irish tweed coats with a difference, making its debut this winter.

It comprises nine styles of tailored coat, cut differently from the conventional mannish way with details like drop shoulders, five slits, extended collars and revers in pinstripe, herringbone, houndstooth, check, and salt and pepper tweed from Molloy’s, fifth generation weavers in Ardara, Donegal. What sets them apart, however, is weight. The usual measure of Donegal tweed is 565g. Those for The Dualist are specially woven in 365g, making them lighter and softer.

Anna Guerin, founder of The Dualist.
Anna Guerin, founder of The Dualist.
Wren – slate grey houndstooth Donegal tweed coat in 100 per cent lambswool, €875.
Wren – slate grey houndstooth Donegal tweed coat in 100 per cent lambswool, €875.

Guerin describes her coats as “transition” pieces for cold, crisp days. Prompted by her own fruitless search for a stylish tweed coat, her approach to the collection has been forensic in its detail and research. She decided, for instance, against using merino wool – “too many animal issues” – and wanted organic cotton but settled for viscose from an Italian mill because cotton compromised the drape of the coat.

An authority on Irish tweed, Guerin completed a research study on Donegal tweed while doing a master’s in business at the Institute of Art Design and Technology. In her opinion, it is a valuable but threatened heritage industry not supported in the way it should be and for what it represents.

“It’s an incredible industry with a long history which has never been written,” she says with passion.

From Listowel and a graduate of the Limerick School of Art and Design, Guerin has had an impressive 20-year career in the fashion industry and always harboured a love of tailoring. She interned in Paris, cut her teeth in Ireland where she was head of design at Libra and Michael H, and has worked in the Far East with Chinese manufacturers for British high street brands Oasis, Coast and Topshop. Her most recent involvement with equestrian wear (where tailoring has to be immaculate) was where she really learned how to build a coat (both inside and out).

Balfe – charcoal salt and pepper Donegal tweed coat in 100 per cent lambswool, €895.
Balfe – charcoal salt and pepper Donegal tweed coat in 100 per cent lambswool, €895.

Ethical issues concern her. “I have spent 16 years working for margins; every single day margins would dictate everything. [With The Dualist] I wanted to do something that didn’t involve fighting with suppliers, where everybody would be paid well and it was not always about finding the cheapest. Even the paper I have chosen was the best. I wanted to do everything right,” she says.

“When you go to Chinese factories everything looks good, looks clean, but the workers go home once a year, they have no freedom and though I was working with a Chinese tailor with golden hands who could produce the coats, I decided to get mine made in a European factory which has been producing for 50 years, makes for Burberry and Acne and the atmosphere is fabulous.”

The two elements in the collection – heritage and contemporary – determined the name of the brand and the way her coats have been photographed has also been carefully considered. “It’s the opposite of being very landscaped. I wanted more darkness and austerity because that’s in our history. The clothes illustrate the mood.”

Heron – dove grey herringbone Donegal tweed coat €895 at Havana.
Heron – dove grey herringbone Donegal tweed coat €895 at Havana.

The collection’s sole stockist is Havana in Donnybrook with coat prices at €795 and €875. She is unapologetic about the price tags arguing that they are based on authenticity, sustainability “and an emotional feeling”.

“There is no carbon footprint either and not one component comes from the Far East.”

The Dualist will also be showcased in Design 20/20 at the RDS in January.

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