MILLING ABOUT WITH MUNGO
Along the Garden Route in Plettenberg Bay is Mungo, a mill creating contemporary and colourful designs through traditional weaving.
All his life Stuart Holding has been weaving, learning the tools of the trade in Yorkshire, UK. In 1998, Stuart came into possession of two antique looms and began to weave textiles for his home. 20 years later and the Master Weaver has now established Mungo, a thriving textile business where he employs over 80 people and has the joy of exporting his colourful creations to the world.
Mungo is where contemporary design meets traditional weaving. Creativity, sustainability and upskilling is at the heart of what they do, and the building where they work has been designed to reflect the techniques and machinery they use.
The Mungo Mill was designed by architect, Andrea Christoforetti who created the exterior to replicate the heddle frames of the looms that carry the threads of fabric up and down. The mill is also surrounded by a pond, recalling the age-old art of weaving where the mill pond’s water was historically used to power the machinery.
Inside the mill is a team of skilled weavers, seamstresses, and designers. Here, we meet textile designer for Mungo, Lenore Schroeder. “The brand is very distinctive in the sense of its quality, thickness, fabric, and the yarns we use. Most of our product consists of natural fibres which are cotton and linen”. It’s Lenore’s job to create the iconic designs of Mungo, and as she explains, the process always starts with colour.
“I get my inspiration from nature, magazines, or from anything that’s happening in the world. As soon as I select the colours, I go back to the design and make a decision of what product I want to create”, explains Lenore. The priority for Mungo Designs is to create textiles and fabrics that will stand the test of time.
Joni Kakubula takes the Insider on a tour around the mill showing us the ins and outs of weaving. At the warping facility, yarn threads are arranged onto a beam in long, parallel lengths of equal tension in preparation for weaving.
Joni explains, “The finished beams will then be tied up onto heddles. Each and every one has got an eye like a needle and each and every thread will be tied through the eye. This process can take one person the whole day to hand-tie just one beam before we even start weaving”.
On the weaving floor, the magic of the looms are churning. [Joni?] explains that all the looms are either restored, gifted or purchased from mills that have closed down or upgraded their production. The looms are carefully watched over by a weaver, ensuring the artistic process is precise for the final product.
The basic principle of weaving involves using a loom to interlace two sets of threads at right angles to each other: the warp, which runs lengthways, and the weft that crosses it. The product of this is fabric. Stuart shares, “Getting that first metre that comes off the loom still excites me – even after 40 years”.
Their signature cloth is called Vrou Throw. Joni describes, “It’s very colourful, it’s got lots of texture, lots of character, and it is woven on one of the looms that has a much wider weaving surface so we can get bed covers and blankets out of this fabric”.
As a sustainable brand, all of Mungo’s cotton is organically grown and ethically sourced. As a result, Mungo proudly holds the title of South Africa’s first textile weaving mill to receive the Global Organic Textile Standard certification for ecological and socially conscious textile manufacturing.
Mungo continues to grow nationally and globally. Their locally-crafted, high-quality products celebrate natural fibres and offer a taste of South African flair to the world.