The Lee Valley Ireland brand history started in the mid-1980s when Denis Hurley thought of making flannel shirts in an old vintage style, similar to those worn by his own grandfather. After designing the cut and choosing suitable materials, he started manufacturing first batches at home, and travelling the fairs circuit in nearby towns to sell them to both tourists and local farmers.
After seeing the demand for comfortable and beautiful vintage granddad shirts, he launched the production line in 1986 in his native village ofInchigeela, Cork County, after having converted the old abandoned dairy. The main production facility is still there. Localizing the production in his native country is a principle for Denis Hurley who still manages the company.
The Lee Valley brand is named after the river Lee that flows throughout the entire Irish county of Cork.
At present, the small factory manufactures different clothes in the traditional Irish style but their principal produce is still those flannel grandfather’s shirts, as well as classic nightshirts and pajamas. The Lee Valley supplies them all over the world. These are those items we have decided to present in our store.
The history of the Merz B. Schwanen brand is divided into two parts: historical and modern.
Balthasar Merz beim Schwanen has been producing men's underwear from cotton jersey in Germany (in the Swabian Alps) since 1911. In 2008, they were forced to close, unable to compete with cheap factories based in Asia.
The modern chapter will begin in a few years, when German designer and entrepreneur Peter Plotnicki discovers an original early 20th century Henley made by Balthasar Merz beim Schwanen at a flea market in Berlin. Peter was fascinated by the way it was made: cut, details and quality of the material. The find took Peter and his wife Gitta to Albstadt in the Swabian Alps, where they met one of the last local textile producers, Rudolf Loder. Rudolf impressed Peter and Gitta with a whole abandoned workshop originally owned by Merz B. Schwanen. There stood, covered with dust, circular knitting machines made in different periods from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. Rudolf Loder was very inspired by the idea of restoring the machines and starting to make quality knitwear in the traditional way. It took Rudolph a year to bring the old machines into working order, and Peter and Gitta at that time developed the first collection and even managed to agree with the heirs of Balthazar Merz to use the original trademark Merz B. Schwanen.
In 2011, the renewed brand Merz B. Schwanen, already under the leadership of Peter Plotnicki, resumed its work, creating high-end T-shirts, henleys and sweatshirts on slow circular knitting machines made in the first half of the 20th century. The main items of their production can be bought from us: cotton loopwheeler T-shirts from the 1950s (like the ones worn by Marlon Brando in the movie "A Streetcar Named Desire") and cotton loopwheeler Henley from the 1920s, which can be found in almost any good film about the early XX century.
Merz B. Schwanen almost literally embodies the concept of "slow fashion", making expensive and high-quality things from natural, eco-friendly materials that will not go out of fashion (since they are in the plane where fashion trends do not matter).