Then & Now | Shaped by Seven Decades

17 November 2021

In 1951, in the small County Armagh village of Magheralin, Northern Ireland, my grandfather, Alexander Irwin first opened the doors of R.A. Irwin. The business originally began as a manufacturer of handstitched handkerchiefs, but the arrival of the disposable tissue soon necessitated significant change and proved pivotal in establishing R.A. Irwin as the textile specialists you know today.


Now, in the third generation, the Irwin Family remain at the heart of the business, along with the core company values on which R.A. Irwin was built. We are committed to providing customers with quality fabrics, dependability and superior levels of service.


The last 70 years have been a journey, in which we have experienced thrilling highs and successes, along with some unfortunate lows. For R.A. Irwin the latter presented itself in 1985 when a fire broke out, burning the entire factory to the ground and, in 2008, our premises endured a major flood. These were challenging times to say the least but, as a company, adaptability and resilience were key in rebuilding the business to be stronger and more progressive.


Unveiling the world’s first commercial digitally printed roller blinds at the 2009 R+T Stuttgart trade show was a particularly exciting and memorable time. Since then our pioneering print capabilities have gone from strength to strength and we have continued to grow and innovate. Stunning designs are created in our in-house design studio and brought to life through our cutting-edge digital print technology.


At R.A. Irwin, experience has taught us to embrace change and it has been a driving force in reshaping the business. In 2019 we expanded our product portfolio with the launch of Honeycell®,  forming an exciting partnership with fabric innovators, Lienesch, to provide new and innovative cellular fabrics to the UK market. Honeycell® encapsulates exceptional quality, choice and style and continues to make its mark on the blinds industry.


The looms fell silent in October 2020 as we made the strategic decision to cease weaving. This was the end of an era for the company but marked the beginning of an exciting, new chapter for R.A. Irwin. In 2021 we became an official brand partner of Coulisse, the inspirational window coverings brand from the Netherlands. This partnership originated from a shared vision and passion for window coverings and belief that window coverings are so much more than just a functional product. 


R.A. Irwin’s expertise in the field of digital printing and exceptional designs paired with Coulisse’s knowledge of textiles and their wide offering of plain fabrics has been translated into two state-of-the-art collection books: Authentic and Allure. This dynamic duo provides unrivalled possibilities to create comfortable, healthy and inspiring indoor spaces.


The Authentic Collection showcases an extensive range of stylish plain roller and vertical blind fabrics, including elegant woven textures and outstanding qualities: sheer, light filtering and black-out. Whilst the Allure Collection embodies fresh, contemporary designs which are sure to inject a sense of personality into any interior. 


The Authentic and Allure books are intuitively arranged for optimum functionality and presented in a compact, lightweight format. Customers can order samples or browse images by simply scanning the integrated fabric QR codes with their smartphones. Gone are the days of heavy, cumbersome books!


I would like to acknowledge and thank all our loyal customers for their continued support. You create the momentum, which drives our business to new heights and we look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.


With thanks, 

Richard Irwin


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