Stable of Ireland

I’m a prolific scarf-wearer and often, my entire outfit is dictated by the scarf I feel will give me the most confidence or joy on a given day. I have a bright blue woven scarf that gives warmth and beauty to even the most bland weather forecasts and I have two silks scarves that I prize. One is a beautifully intricate swirling palette of cream, black and beige by Oscar de la Renta and the other is a bold design that resembles royal motifs and emblems, designed by Paul Costelloe. I treasure both of those scarves and wear them almost daily – as my Instagram account can prove.

Scarves grant a sense of maturity and sophistication which I revel in. It proves to the passer by that I am an adult. It frames my silhouette but I can’t recall how I first became endeared to the garment or any particular instruction as to how I should wear it. I’ve also rarely considered the materials and the process by which scarves are made or how their popularity came about. A recent visit to the STABLE of Ireland pop up shop, resulted in all of these questions meandering through my mind. Thus, I thought I’d do some research.

Did you know that the first known record of a scarf is dated back to 1350 BC, when Queen Nefertiti of Egypt wore a finely woven scarf, topped by a conical headpiece? Therefore, the scarf began as a decorative item but skipping forward several centuries, the Croatian mercenaries wore scarves to signify their rank in the 1600s. A hundred years later, the scarf evolved to become a symbol for political allegiance with the French choosing to wear cravats, each shade symbolising a particular governmental party or movement.

With the fashion domain, the attitude towards the scarf altered dramatically with Hermes’ line of silk scarves in 1837 and Burberry’s iconic plaid scarves in 1856. Close to two hundred years later, the scarf continues to be a pillar in both brands’ success and wide-ranging appeal.

The scarf is a symbol of heritage, style, religious belief, warmth, protection, and sometimes uniform but with its familiarity seeping from the luxury market to quotidian fashions, how often do we consider the materials and context by which it is construed?

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Sonia Reynolds and Francie Duff seek to reframe the definition of a scarf, particularly within an Irish and aesthetic lens. They founded STABLE of Ireland, a Dublin-based company which places great emphasis on the textures, craft, skill and time required to make each scarf.

The idea evolved, they say, from “a lifetime of road trips all over the Irish countryside meeting and working with such talented and skilled markers in textiles. We share a love of Irish fabrics and weaves, and have a desire to make scarves that we would wear, that are reflective of what we love about Ireland and life”.

It’s obvious that the duo possess years of branding and marketing experience from within the fashion industry but they pair that skillset with a keen eye for design and a tangible generosity. These traits are most evident in their tribute to Ireland’s tricolour. stable_of_ireland_minnie_melange

In their own words, “We wanted to create something special and thought it would be great to create our own STABLE tricolour scarf with the colours that we love from Irish landscapes – the fresh green seaweeds from the Atlantic beaches, the orange montbretia lining the roads of West Cork and the ever-changing grey hues of the Burren”.

It’s not merely the colour palette which they concerned themselves with but their aim was also to create “a huge scarf that could fold down to nothing, be super soft, that could be worn in a multitude of ways for all sorts of different occasions. We work with weavers and producers from all over the island of Ireland of different sizes and capacities. We work with the best people and quality does not come cheap”.

Francie and Sonia admit that it’s a challenge to keep up with the demand for their tricolour scarf. At €195, it’s a possible sign that disposable income is on the increase and that customers are actively choosing to invest in quality Irish-made goods.

minnie_melange_stable_of_irelandSTABLE retail mostly online but for the past fortnight, they have had a pop up residency within The Westbury Hotel. What was initially a two week stint, has swelled to almost a month due to the overwhelming demand and interest in the brand. It has also been a learning experience for Sonia and Francie as they engage with customers in person and receive feedback from the international travellers staying at the hotel.

Will they broaden their scope for STABLE or will they remain true to their uniquely Irish definition of the scarf? For now though, Sonia and Francie say that they “create rare, precious things that are thoughtfully, carefully made by people who love what they do and don’t compromise on quality. For us, this is the true meaning of luxury”.

The STABLE of Ireland pop up remains within The Westbury Hotel until June 9th.

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Written by

Sinéad Burke is an academic and a writer with an obsessive interest in fashion, education and 'Extraordinary Women'. She is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Women's Council of Ireland.

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