Based in South Africa, Mungo is a homeware textile company that creates heirloom-quality woven goods. Decades since they first opened in a local dairy building, they’ve moved into their new custom-built mill in Old Nick Village, where Polly Leonard caught up with them after the big move.
You're referring to the new mill as a showcase of transparent production. How does the building merge pre-industrial methods with present-day technology?
Production at the Mill combines antique looms from the pre-industrial revolution with looms made in the early eighties. Technology progression is fascinating to see in action. In five to ten years we'll look at modernising equipment and programming further, but there are definite benefits to holding on to the older machines.
For one, the technology is simpler and can be more cost-effective. The ethos behind using looms that would have been sold for scrap to is something we align with greatly. On the downside, the older equipment tends to break down and become unreliable. We're ensuring that the skill set doesn't die off with the people who know how to run the old looms. The transfer of these skills is very important and an art in itself.
Talk us through your design process with architect Andrea Cristoforetti...
The process happened around Andrea's kitchen counter. He has collected a lot of architectural books over the years and he translated his vision through images and references. We refined the design over a number of meetings and bottles of Castle Milk Stout. With Andrea being Italian there was also delicious parmesan cheese and excellent balsamic vinegar thrown in for good measure. It was a very charming process.
What materials and noteworthy design elements are showcased in the build?
The external skin and the arches. The face brick detail achieved by our builder is also remarkable. We used local materials when possible, including bricks made 20km away and timber from the pine forests between George and Knysna. I'm a carpenter and cabinet maker by trade, so I have an understanding and love of wood. My personal aesthetic leans towards leaving the product untreated to weather naturally, bleaching over time to create more dimension. The wooden floors have been varnished inside to keep them from becoming very dirty, but even there we opted for a very soft finish.
Concepts of sustainability, transparency and traceability are central to your company values. Why are these and the 'slow movement' so important to you?
We have a huge impact on the planet as a species, largely negative, and at Mungo, we want to use some of the tools at our disposal to champion the honesty and transparency of manufacturing. This promise holds us accountable and forces us to make decisions that ultimately benefit the environment. People have lost touch with how things are manufactured but we're passionate about showcasing and valuing the process by which something has been made.
Mungo Mill is open to the public. www.mungo.co.za.
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Boma cotton kitchen towel from Mungo
The Boma Cloth is a multi-purpose kitchen cloth in a fancy dobby weave, available in 12 earthy and vibrant colour combinations, each inspired by elements of the South African natural landscape. 100% cotton. Designed, woven and made in South Africa. 40 cm x 70 cm.