There’s a distinctive change in the air this time of year; the quality of the light, that first nip of winter. It’s also one of Plett’s most beautiful times – when the sky is clear and crisp and calm – until the rains roll in. And as you drive down the N2, towards Old Nick Village, you’ll see the early morning light catch the sea. Glittering. And then the bow of the Mungo Mill. The telltale slatted structure that curves up, threadlike, towards the sky. It’s picturesque, yes. Naively pastoral, perhaps. But it’s also our home – and we are lucky to have it.
It’s a place that provides unending inspiration – a vital source of colour and texture, that fuels our creative compulsions. It’s also a reminder – looking out at that quiet sea, at the weaver bird’s moving between their nests around Old Nick, at the Coral tree that frames the entrance of the mill – of everything that’s at stake for the future. All that we need to protect.
As producers, we are of course contributing to the cycle of making. A cycle that pulls from a pool of resources, but which also fuels innovation and change and livelihoods. It’s a conundrum of which none of us can really escape. So we look for ways of doing things a little differently. And a little better. It’s why we pursued our GOTS certification. And why we hold true to our initial vision – on which Mungo was founded over 20 years ago: to create a product woven to last, not destined for landfill. Something of quality, of craftsmanship, of beauty. To be used. And to be treasured.
Step beyond the threshold of the mill, past that curving Coral tree and through the open glass doors, and you’ll hear a distinctive sound. A chorus of looms. First, the beat of the Lancashires, then the lower hum of the Dorniers. The metallic timbre of thousands of droppers, each holding a single thread in place – some of which have been tied on by hand. The shuttle of the Rutis has its own resonant beat, as it flies back and forth, carrying the pirn. But if you lean in, listen closely, you’ll hear it. As does the Saurer – on which the Caribbean Check is weaving. A soft cotton tablecloth, designed by Stu, our Master Weaver. The Saurer is the newest in our collection – a loom, like many others at the Mungo Mill, that has been refurbished and restored. Itself a testament to repurposing and refining. A concept from which we take our name.
It’s an orchestra. And there are several conductors. Nicolette, our weaving manager, who moves from machine to machine with a keen eye and deft hand. Caroline, running her hand over the droppers, an instinctive feel for the cloth. And here, passing beneath the large east-facing windows, our newest weaver, Donovan. Last week we watched him being trained by Ryno, at the helm of our Lancashire looms, weaving organic baby blankets. Today moving through the mill with greater confidence between the Rutis, weaving our pure linen Selvedge Serviettes. Then through the double volume building into the warping department, where thousands of threads are being lined up under the eye of Rodney or Gordon or Eugene. Up into the CMT, where Ginny, who’s been with us since we first opened our doors, is directing the flow of cutting and sewing and pressing. The whir of the needles, the hiss of the press – these too contributing to the swell of sound. Parts moving together at different paces but also in unity.
If you have a chance to walk among our looms, perhaps you’ll feel this too. That there are human hands at play, many steps involved, considered design and carefully selected threads. There are real people at the centre of it – dreams and livelihoods and visions of a better future.
This is the fabric of our life. Indeed it is a daily source of inspiration.
And perhaps, as you open, as you feel your Mungo product, you might intuit some of that too. The fibres, the hands, the craft, the care. Feel yourself a little more connected. To the threads that bind us all.