Enrich and Endure | New design for an age old industry

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One of the greatest pleasures I have in writing this blog is uncovering the stories of people who are working to keep the age old skills and industries of their local towns and communities alive and, by applying fresh, new design ideas, helping to breathe new life into them.

Growing up in a town famous for its traditional weaving skills, brother and sister team Sarah and Lorcan from Northern Ireland had the perfect platform from which to launch their textile company Enrich and Endure.

Here's their story.

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How did the Enrich and Endure story begin?

Lorcan and myself were both travelling overseas when Enrich and Endure was first conceived. I was living in New Zealand and he came to visit me on his round the world trip. Knowing that we both keen to return to the nest and ready to start a career in something we felt passionately about, we talked and talked about what was to come next.  With my design background and his business knowledge, attention to detail and style we were intent on getting involved in a creative venture. We decided we should develop a business that curated beautiful products made in Ireland that told great stories. I love telling stories! We wanted to meet makers and create a community of like-minded creative people that work together in re-inventing Irish products in a fresh and unique way. We returned home with bright ideas and finally 14 months later Enrich and Endure was born.

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The textures and colours of the Harvest collection were inspired by the stunning scenery of the New Zealand where Sarah lived before setting up Enrich and Endure.

Can you tell us a little about your background and design influences?

I have always been driven towards design...I love it! I went to Manchester to study art at university but quite quickly realised that actually, I hadn't a clue what I wanted to do. I knew I didn't want to get trapped in career I didn't feel passionately about. And so I decided to go out into the big bad world and get some real experience - I travelled, I worked, I shadowed, I learnt new skills and most importantly I had fun. I was living in New Zealand for a year where I spent time working for an interior designer and living on a merino sheep farm. I then returned home sweet home to begin the next chapter...Enrich and Endure.

Where is your business based?

We are based in Northern Ireland, County Down. We have a studio in our home town, Banbridge where we make up our products. All of our fabrics are woven here in Ireland (that is very important to us), be it locally or in County Donegal. We have some incredibly talented ladies who sew and finish our products. They sew on retro Juki industrial machines, all of which are older than ourselves. We are incredibly fortunate to have one of the last world renowned Irish linen weavers right on our doorstep here in Banbridge pretty much next door to our studio.

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What's it like living and running a business in County Down?

Well, being based here in Banbridge is massively advantageous in this industry as our town is world-renowned for its weaving heritage. With such a vast amount of skill base right on our doorstep, we couldn't ask for a better platform. County Down is an incredible place to live and work in our opinion. There is so much to do if you love being outdoors and have a sense of adventure. We spend a lot of our time in the mountains rock climbing, biking and fell running in the Mourne Mountains. I guess that's a huge advantage of running your own business - when the sun is shining we try and get out in the fresh air. The countryside here is exceptionally beautiful.

Your company seems to be rooted in a strong sense of place and heritage. How important is this to you?

The Irish Linen and weaving industry is an integral part of our heritage here in Ulster. We truly believe the Irish Linen industry is fascinating - it has just been forgotten about. Us young blooded go-getters; the next generation are going to reap up the past and plan to bring the industry back in a fresh and exciting way. Irish Linen weavers are now a rarity meaning we are incredibly fortunate to have one of the last world renowned Irish linen weavers right on our doorstep here in Banbrige. We are so grateful for the opportunity to embrace this weaving heritage whilst steering the boundaries of this industry in a young and creative manner.

What originally started off as a relatively small scale local industry with the multitude of bleaching greens throughout the countryside, rapidly developed into large scale manufacture with several mills being constructed along the banks of the Bann and around our hometown in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These gigantic mills and factories, with their trademark chimneys and large, square, red-bricked buildings with symmetrical rows of windows, still litter the County's skyline. The industry needs to be revived, there is no doubt about it and we believe we are up to the job.

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Which three words best describe your products?

If I was playing smart I would have to say - 'Enrich and Endure'... but I will refrain.

I would say our products are timeless, vibrant and luxurious.

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What makes Enrich and Endure different?

We have some extremely unique yarn mixes and intricate weaves in our collections that differentiate us from the crowd. We combine Irish linen and merino wool together to create beautiful tactile fabrics. These mixes that are a black magic to launder. Washing and drying this mixed-medium from it's raw state causes technical difficulties as the two fibres have different shrinkages and felting levels. Admittedly, in the early days we had our fair share of shrunk and over-felted sample runs but thankfully now we have the art down to a tee and gorgeous fabrics to show for it. Irish linen is a natural product, it breathes, just like skin. It is world renowned for being luxuriously soft, giving it unrivalled comfort and feel. It has a lasting durability and is enriched with history meaning it may be handed down as an heirloom and treasured generations from now. An added advantage of linen is the fabric's ability to age beautifully and become softer with washing.

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What's it like working with your brother?

We actually work surprisingly well together. We have a similar style and share the same taste in design and business ideas. Lorcan works on all things business and marketing. He is in charge of making it all happen. He is super efficient and whizz on the computer. I am in charge of all things creative, design and production and writing our blog.

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What are you most proud of?

We are proud of our weaving heritage here in County Down, although we can't really take any credit for that. We do like to think though we are helping keep an age old industry alive in a fresh and exciting way, introducing colour and innovative yarn mixes like no-one else.

My favourite product is the 'Fuchsia Rose Tablecloth' and Lorcan loves the 'Navy Cluden Cushion'. We are also very proud of our website. We worked closely with an amazing team of designers down in Dublin at Slater Design. They really have done an awesome job especially with our logo; a linnet bird. We call him Phil (the bird that is) after the great Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.

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What's next for Enrich and Endure?

Going forward we hope to design and create more innovative products in Irish Linen and wool mixed composition fabrics. We are passionate about designing more unique double damask designs. Innovation is key to our future business model. We are currently working on a project with Northern Ireland's top design university, University of Ulster, on a new fabric for our Autumn/Winter range. Going forward we hope to work intimately with other artisan Irish weavers and do small limited addition collaborations with weavers, artists, designers and other creative like-minded people. We will also be launching a bedding collection in the near future which we are very excited about.

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The Enrich and Endure collection of irish linens includes tablecloths, napkins, throws and cushions - all designed, woven and handcrafted in Ireland. Available at www.enrichandendure.com