Three years ago Sonia Reynolds and Frances Duff, close friends who share passions for design and Irish craft, opened a pop-up store selling Irish-made scarves beside the Westbury Hotel in Dublin. It was a gamble.
“We had very little,” Duff says. “Large linen herringbone scarves, some fine weave, some in wool – it was sparse but shown with beautiful garden shrubs and branches – so all we had was that and a huge optimism about Irish textiles.”
Today Stable is a boutique with a dizzying array of linen in all its forms and expression, from ties and scarves to dressing gowns, blankets, pyjama-style separates and long creamy summer dresses.
One of their success stories is a tricolour wraparound scarf, in seaweed green, montbretia orange and limestone grey, whose buyers include people getting Irish citizenship
“We show people how to tie scarves and we talk [to customers] about linen and its history and bring on their confidence in Irish linen scarves, which were not a feature before. We explain the drape, hold and structure and how the more you wear it the better it gets,” says Duff.
The pair travel all over the country and buy from the three linen weavers left in Ireland: Emblem Weavers, in Co Wexford, and Fergusons and John England, both of which are in Banbridge, Co Down.
Stable has expanded to become a haven of Irish textiles and craft and a great place for gifts. There are woollen scarves, throws, blankets, rainwear, pottery, crios belts and denim bags, along with silk art scarves from the Irish artists Patrick Scott and Louis le Brocquy, in their designs from the 1950s and 1960s.
One of their biggest success stories is the tricolour wraparound scarf in seaweed green, montbretia orange and limestone grey – shades that playfully reflect the Irish landscape – which was launched in 2016 for the centenary of the Easter Rising (and worn by Bono in Trafalgar Square during the MTV Awards). Its buyers include people getting Irish citizenship or those heading off to compete in the New York marathon.
“There is a lot of emotion attached to it,” says Duff. “One customer bought three as hangings. It resonates with people: it has captured something.”
The pair have been friends since their modelling days in the late 1980s. “We always wanted to create something we could be proud of,” Reynolds says. “And I had worn so many sweaters and worked for so many companies over the years that we thought there was an opening to present everything in a classic way.
“We now have a broad market, and people are really intrigued by the stories behind Irish textiles. We work directly with the makers – various craftspeople, weavers, knitters, spinners and potters all over the country – and refine the offer.”
Their stylish unisex Stable macs, for instance, in ink, olive and camel, show how they operate, and are another success story. “We met Francis Campelli of Mackintosh Rainwear and saw how amazing the craftsmanship was, but we wanted to simplify the mac, incorporate the linen, the orange stitch detail on the buttonhole and the side belts, to create a simple classic,” Reynolds says.
Our offering is very simple: everything is timeless, classic in the real sense and not fashion led, so nothing will go out of style
The latest addition to the fold is a handsome handknit Aran sweater in merino wool spun in Donegal, knitted in Dublin with two neck styles, and only made to order. It has been some time in the making and very carefully considered. Reynolds explains that merino has more substance than cashmere when it comes to its decorative stitches and holds the cables, the blackberry and the diamond more effectively. “The fleck is a typical feature in Donegal, because nothing is wasted,” she says.
There are further plans in progress. “When you come into Stable, everything in it is unique, and what we do so well in this country is weaving. Our offering is very simple: everything is timeless, classic in the real sense and not fashion led, so nothing will go out of style. We are showing how wonderful and relevant Irish textiles are today.”
Photography: Barry McCall. Grooming: Searon McGrattan. Styling: Catherine Condell. Models: Appiok at Not Another Agency, Ciara B at Assets, and Charlie L at Not Another Agency