Bevan O’Daly: 'I used to go into fabric shops and I was just blinded by all the patterns'

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Attribution/author:Article by: Megan Merino
Publish date: 15 June 2022

We pay Bawn Textiles founder Bevan O’Daly a visit to learn how ethics and environmentalism intersect with her love of fabrics

Bevan O'Daly / Pictures: Emma Sarah McBride 

Textiles are the building blocks of many of our most prized possessions, as Irish artist and textile conservationist Bevan O’Daly knows all too well. Spending half her time prepping historic garments, carpets and tapestries for museums and organisations like the V&A, National Trust and The Burrell Collection, and the other half launching her own company, Bawn Textiles, she’s somewhat of a fabric connoisseur. ‘My background is in textiles as a form and understanding their chemistry and structure,’ she says, sitting in her shop in Glasgow’s Southside. ‘It’s very hard to explain how you know it’s a good quality fabric; it’s down to a lot of years of knowledge.’

O’Daly took Bawn Textiles from online-only to a physical shop in May 2021 (in line with the reopening of all non-essential shops after lockdown), establishing herself as a high-quality textiles and sewing atelier with a strong environmental conscience. ‘I just made it my purpose to be really selective about what I choose to stock. There are only two or three other companies in the UK that are as specific and strict with their sustainability criteria.’

From favouring 100% pure fabrics (due to their recyclable properties) to avoiding strong patterns, longevity is always at the forefront of O’Daly’s mind. ‘I used to go into fabric shops and I was just blinded by all the patterns. So many people in the UK are making their own clothes now which is obviously to do with people’s ethics and the quality of the high street going down. But by not stocking many patterns, you’re allowing people to choose really good quality basics that will stay in circulation for longer. For example, it’s much easier to pass on a plain blue shirt than a leopard print shirt.’

Naturally, starting a brand new business had its challenges: ‘I had massive ideas about what the shop would sell at the beginning but, to make it work, you have to break it down and start smaller.’ Starting with 18 specially selected fabrics and slowly building to the 60 now on display has taken time, with minimum order quantities and cagey suppliers making it difficult to maintain high ethical standards. ‘I have such a respect for the weave structure and engineering of fabric. You have to just keep asking the questions and putting the pressure on as much as possible until suppliers eventually see this is information that people want to know. The more transparent it is, the better.’

It is this attention to detail and honesty that her customers value most, with some making journeys from Newcastle and Brighton to get their hands on fabric. ‘There’s a lot of small independent fashion designers that shop with us too,’ O’Daly says. ‘Again, they don’t have the cash flow to buy minimum orders, so they’ll start their process here. It’s nice to support their goals as well.’ 

What, then, would O’Daly most like to see her textiles used for? As it turns out, nothing at all. ‘I love the actual fabric. I care about what people do with it but, at the end of the day, I would much rather they didn’t cut it up because I just think it’s fabulous on its own,’ she laughs. ‘But what people then go on to engineer in terms of clothes is also amazing. I’m definitely learning more about that process as time goes on.’ 

Bawn Textiles, 613 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, bawntextiles.com.

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