Crafting long wearing, classic knitwear has always been in the Irish DNA, something local business woman Anne Behan, head of McConnell knitwear, knows plenty about.
Anne grew up in West Limerick where there was a strong family tradition of knitting, family members would produce Aran sweaters without the need for patterns or designs. This craft has been passed down the generations and Anne herself has taken that skill and developed it to produce contemporary knitwear based on the hand finished craftsmanship associated with Ireland.
Anne specialised in knitwear for her degree and postgrad in fashion design at the Limerick School of Art and Design. Following her tenure at fashion and knitwear companies Carraig Donn and Ireland’s Eye Knitwear, she formed Áine Knitwear in 2000 with the support of the Local Enterprise Office Clare and LEADER.
The international knitwear company relocated the manufacturing facility to the lovely village of Killaloe in County Clare in the Spring of 2019, where the firm plans to invest over €400,000 and create 10 new jobs over the next three years.
Her factory and shop are based in Killaloe and have already brought 10 jobs to the locality. Anne stresses the importance to her of providing employment in rural Ireland. “It’s important that businesses set up in rural areas and it’s great for people to be able to work where they want to live.”
Anne sees herself staying in Killaloe and developing her brand from her base here by expanding into retail – ‘McConnell On The Lake’, which had a soft launch in July of this year. She will continue to expand her production into export markets, mainly Japan, U.S. and Germany, where she will continue to highlight the tradition and heritage of Irish knitwear.
Her creations are made with natural yarns and locally sourced produce, she states “My designs look Irish, but I describe them as ‘modern Irish’. While my customers’ parents may have worn Aran jumpers, they are buying my brand when they want an ‘Irish sweater’. We use the tradition of Irish knitwear but the products are not overtly traditional.”
Her recent collection takes its inspiration from the hauntingly beautiful classic Irish myth the Children of Lir. According to the tale, the four much loved children of the Irish King Lir took the form of swans which sang enchanting melodies from various lakes of Ireland. The tale evokes the beauty of the four majestic and elegant swans, the enduring youth of the children and the durability and timelessness of their surroundings.
A true asset to any local social and business community, Anne actively encourages cross pollination of businesses through social enterprise by way of linking McConnell knitwear to many community corporate social responsibility events. She is also a strong advocate for supporting the Chernobyl Children’s charity to help build the future for the next generation affected by the disaster.
McConnell is only available in selected partner outlets nationwide in Ireland and around the world and at in their own shop on the Killaloe Bridge.