In 1998, Master Weaver Stuart Holding was fortuitously gifted two restored antique looms - the very looms on which he had performed his weaving apprenticeship in his hometown of Bentham, North Yorkshire. He used these looms to weave limited runs of beautiful homeware textiles from what he called his ‘working weaving museum’ – an old barn where passersby could watch him work.
Today Stuart’s dairy barn has been replaced by the Mungo Mill, a thriving production hub located in the scenic coastal town of Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. The two original workhorses of his operation sit alongside 14 others; a combination of both pre-industrial shuttle looms and more modern power machines.
Creations come to life the old-fashioned way - designs are hand-drawn on graph paper, punched onto pattern cards, fed onto the loom, sent off to CMT (all on site) before being taken home to test. The result is an organic design process, and a finished textile that is both functional and of an exceptional quality. Products like the Ruti Kikoi, Lisburn Linen or Selvedge Serviettes bear the hallmark of the traditional weaving technology; finished with selvedges particular only to shuttle looms.
Image: The warping process at Mungo.
Alongside the initial vision, Mungo maintains its commitment to operate sustainably, and in 2020 became South Africa’s first (and only) GOTS-certified weaving mill. In suit they’ve released a number of organic and ethically produced textiles, including South Africa’s first 100% GOTS-certified towel, the Aegean.
Alongside the range of bed, kitchen and table linens, it is perhaps their signature towels which have made Mungo a household name in South Africa. Known as ‘flat weaves’, their towels are characteristically lightweight and quick drying. The nature of the weave allows Mungo to be more flexible in the design process, resulting in an array of bath and beach towels with both striking colour and intricate designs.
Image: The Mungo Vrou-Vrou blanket. Photo courtesy of Pippa Scholtz.
Today the Mungo Mill has become as much an architectural landmark on the Garden Route as a production centre. Designed by architect Andrea Christoforetti, it takes direct inspiration from the weaving process itself, with the slatted ‘skin’ of the building referencing the undulating rise and fall of threads on a loom. Open daily to the public, visitors from around the world are invited to see, hear and reconnect with the age-old art of textile making - and one of the few remaining linen weavers in the country - amid the clatter of the looms.
Adjacent sits their flagship store, one of four in the country, where visitors can feel the finished product up close, and take home a piece of Mungo magic for themselves.
For more information about the ethos of Mungo and their products, visit https://www.mungo.co/.