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It’ll take more than Brexit to see us off, vows boss of clothing firm Magee


Some of the Magee clothing range
Some of the Magee clothing range
Marketing manager Rosy Temple

By Mark McConville

Clothing brand Magee survived economic downturns such as the 1929 Wall Street Crash and two World Wars, and Brexit will be no different, its marketing manager has said.

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Rosy Temple made the comments after the firm blamed Brexit as it shut down a distribution facility in Northern Ireland and transferred the operation to Donegal.

Ms Temple also said the company had seen a slight decrease in shoppers crossing the border to visit its Donegal store in particular, following the value of the pound dropping.

"We're a fifth generation Irish family business and have been in business for over 150 years," she said.

"We stand for maintaining our heritage and never losing sight of our roots, which is really embedded in textiles and weaving and that emphasis on tailoring and design.

"We've gone through various global economic ups and downs through our 150 years from the 1920s crash to the World Wars. We're confident that we will be able to weather through the political uncertainty.

"We work with nearly 50 Northern Irish stockists, which are well established independent retailers who we work closely with and have often worked with for decades. We are positive that we will remain in business into the future and we'd like to thank all our customers for their ongoing support.

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"We're excited for what the Magee brand can continue to do."

The Ballymena-based facility had operated for Magee since the 1920s but was closed last month ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline.

Magee chairman Lynn Temple said the decision was taken "due to the definite possibility of a no-deal Brexit and the punitive duties on clothing in and out of Northern Ireland, which would make retail outlets to wholesale customers in Ireland impossible to service".

The popular brand was established in 1866 by John Magee as a small draper's shop in Donegal, buying and selling handwoven tweeds.

In 1900 Robert Temple bought the business and today the fourth and fifth generations of the Temple family are at the helm - Lynn, Charlotte, Rosy and Paddy.

Magee opened a warehouse in Belfast in 1921 after partition and a clothing factory in 1945 to avoid customs problems, distributing tweed throughout the UK.

Ms Temple explained how the company changed with the times to ensure its ongoing popularity throughout the years.

"We have a weaving mill which services customers around the world from Japan to the US and then in retail we have two stores in Dublin, our original store in Donegal and we have a really established wholesale business where we're supplying garments to independent retailers in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK," she said.

"Northern Ireland is a really strong part of that and sales remain quite buoyant.

"We incorporate both that rich heritage and emphasis on quality into becoming a lifestyle brand.

"So that means keeping in touch with our tailored core - the suits and the jackets and using a lot of our own fabrics woven in Donegal - but also branching out into casual ranges including knitwear, trousers, shirts and accessories.

"That makes sure we are relevant but keep to that Magee name, which is very much known for its quality. It makes sure we keep moving with the times, as casual Fridays are definitely here to stay.

"Part of the future as well is that we are very conscious of the environment and sustainability."

In recent years Magee has focused more on womenswear, as well as accessories and home interiors.

"Our men's range is hugely important to us, but women's is also key and that's something we've been developing over the last 10 years but particularly in the last three to four years," said Ms Temple. "We bring the same ethos as the men's with really well-tailored garments and a huge emphasis on using our own fabric but with more casual elements. We're excited that the women's will bring quite an additional part to our collection."

Belfast Telegraph