Together Editor Catherine Feore meets Anna Guerin, a designer committed to beautiful tailoring, sustainability and Donegal Tweed.
“The word Landskein means a weaving and braiding of horizon lines, seen on hazy days,” says Anna Guerin, the woman behind The Landskein. “I came across the word years ago and I fell in love with its meaning. It’s a profoundly beautiful word that reflects the idea of the interweaving of the threads of heritage with the threads of modernity.”
Guerin is a passionate advocate of Donegal Tweed. In 2017, she undertook research into the value of authenticity and sustainability in Donegal Tweed, as part of her Masters degree, which involved spending a great deal of time interviewing the weavers of Donegal and observing their methods and processes.
“The word Landskein means a weaving and braiding of horizon lines, seen on hazy days”
Carrying out the research deepened her love and interest in this singular fabric: “Unlike Harris Tweed, there is no legal protection on the production of Donegal Tweed, which can be produced anywhere, and yet still be called Donegal Tweed. It just seems crazy that a product that is synonymous with our national cultural identity is not protected, there is evidence to show that this textile has been produced in Donegal for at least the past 800 years.”
While Guerin celebrates Donegal Tweed in her designs, she brings its story into the present with modern silhouettes, relaxed oversized cuts, drop shoulders and extended style lines. While the cuts are contemporary, the styles use the best traditional tailoring techniques. One of the designers she admires most is Antwerp’s Dries Van Noten, also known for his outstanding tailoring: “He is a pure genius,” says Guerin. “He allows the fabric and cut to lead the way, every design is both timeless yet modern, his work always strikes the perfect balance. I admire any creator who has managed to build a business doing what they love.
“There are so many obstacles to maintaining the highest standards, especially when the company is self-financing. Some people do wonder why I would choose such a challenging route, but while it is all-consuming work, I enjoy every second of it. The satisfaction of seeing your ideas come to life is priceless. Naturally improving the profitability of the business is a goal, but I feel that will come if I continue to love what I do.”
One of the challenges has been to reduce the weight of the tweed: “We prototyped different weights and finishes with differing fusings, interlinings and linings until we were satisfied with the feel, cut and drape of the cloth. We found in our research that there was an objection to the traditional heavier weight of tweeds, so we reduced the weight of the overall fabric by 40%. By using fine lambswool we were able to produce a contemporary and elegant fabric that worked beautifully in modern soft tailored coats. We worked very closely with Kieran Molloy of Molloy & Sons to develop a lightweight tweed in contemporary colours and designs.”
“The satisfaction of seeing your ideas come to life is priceless”
Sustainability is sewn into every fibre of The Landskein. “Many of our yarns are spun in Donegal, which supports the local economy and reduces our carbon footprint. The yarn spinners only source their fibres from farms with high animal welfare standards. We do not use Merino yarns in our tweeds, and so our fabrics are mulesings free, which is a cruel process carried out on Merino sheep. Our horn buttons are made from waste from the food industry.”
“When we were building the prototypes, I initially chose a sustainably produced organic cotton for the linings; while this looked interesting and was kind to the environment, it compromised the drape of the tweed. I had this idea that I wanted everything in this coat to eventually dissolve and leave no trace. Finally, I found a mill in Italy which weaves viscose lining from wood pulp certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) from forests in northern Europe, so thankfully I found an environmentally friendly solution without compromising on the tailoring.”
For Guerin, it’s not just about being kind to the planet: “We believe in sustainable fashion that is kind to the environment and every individual in the process. The Landskein only works with European companies whose staff are protected under EU work directives and who receive a fair wage. I have worked very closely with all the workers in the process, from the pattern makers, the cutters and the machinists. I know them all by name, and I know they are treated with great respect and that they enjoy and take pride in their work on The Landskein.”
“We believe in sustainable fashion that is kind to the environment and every individual in the process”
“Having worked in the industry for so long and having seen how desperate conditions can be with my own eyes, it was imperative for me that kindness would be one of the main pillars of the brand. Of course, an unwavering dedication to kindness can’t be seen in the coats, but we feel we have built this intangible value into these pieces. This comes at a financial cost, and we understand that the cost places us in a very niche luxury market, but we want to build a sustainable business model while maintaining our core values.”
The photographer behind the shoot is London-based Irish photographer Boo George. George’s style is very reminiscent of Peter Lindbergh, a photographer he admired; both give their images a cinematic and timeless feel. Like Lindbergh, he is a photographer who is loved by actors, including Eddie Redmayne, Helen Mirren and Michael Fassbender. In the ‘What’s On Belgium’ section, we have a piece on the recently opened Lindbergh ‘Untold Stories’ exhibition in Espace Vonderborght. I was struck by the similarities – both photographers draw you in to their subject.
George’s photography is a great match for Guerin’s design: authentic, human and timeless.
Photography: Boo George
Photographers assistant: Bror Ivefelt
Model: Ami Hope Jackson at Notanotherinternational
Stylist: Yana Mc Killop
MUA: Gail Miller
Location assistant: Rory Boss