The Scout: EW's Field Guide to the Next New Things

By Clarissa Cruz
Updated November 02, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Irish eyes are definitely smiling in the sleepy county of Donegal. Famous for its gorgeous seaside landscape, as well as for being the birthplace of songbird Enya, the hamlet is enjoying an upturn in name recognition due to its most popular export: Donegal tweed. J. Crew and the Gap are just a few of the retailers featuring the fabric, which is inspired by the colors of the Irish countryside. Why all the ruckus for a pattern that’s been handwoven in Donegal since the mid-1800s? ”Tweed’s appeal comes from a combination of color and texture,” says J. Crew creative director Scott Formby. ”[And] the new tweeds are softer, so the new silhouettes are sleeker, even sexy.” But the Irish aren’t fazed by their sudden trendiness. ”It’s the tradition,” says Marguerite Cowburn, merchandise manager of Donegal department store Magee. ”It’s handwoven. And the blues, the greens, the mosses are the colors of nature.” Not to mention Benjamins.