Marghab Linens - Making Tables More Gorgeous than Ever
Marghab linens still impress, 40 years after the last stitch was embroidered- Lisa Madeline Smith, CEO, Things Most Delightful
The company may have shut its doors, but Marghab linens haven’t lost their edge. Decades have passed since the last of Marghab’s iconic patterns were hand embroidered in Madeira, but the linens that remain are as amazing as ever. And if you’re fortunate enough to sit at a table laid with Marghab linens, you’ll know exactly why. Napkins of the finest Irish linen feel cool and silky in your hands. The detailed gracefulness of a placemat presents like a work of art - perhaps a deer looking up at the moon, or delicate ferns sculpted onto organdy (Marghab offered over 300 different patterns). The almost impossible exactness of the handwork, studied up-close. Marghab is a rare experience of beauty that you can both see and touch.
On their own merits, Marghab linens are extraordinary, guided famously and relentlessly by the pursuit of perfection. Compare them to anything made today, and your appreciation will soar. The quality of Marghab linens is practically impossible to duplicate any longer. That combination of skillful hand embroidery on superior fabrics, marked by attention to detail, right down to exquisitely embellished hems, is very rare - and incredibly expensive. These days you’ll more often encounter hurriedly hand embroidered pieces on mid-quality fabrics, offered in all seriousness as “fine linen”.
If you love genuinely fine linens, Marghab is still worth pursuing.
The exclusive world of Marghab
Younger people may not be familiar with the Marghab name. The glory days of fine linen are definitely removed from the world we live in now, and the company itself closed in 1980. But there was a time you didn’t have to introduce Marghab, or explain how magnificent their linens were - the whole world knew it.
In the mid twentieth century, the Marghab name was synonymous with luxury and style. Marghab linens were available only at exclusive stores like George Jensen, Neiman-Marcus, Bullock’s Willshire, and the like, where each housed a special Marghab boutique to showcase the brand. Marketed as superior in every way, Marghab linens lived up to the hype. Tablecloths, placemat sets, handkerchiefs, cocktail napkins and more - each Marghab piece was a taste of luxury, acquired by the rich and famous, and anyone of better means and taste.
A little history
Succeeding in this luxury linen market was a huge accomplishment for a firm out of Madeira, that small Portuguese island in the far off waters of the Atlantic. Today of course, Madeira embroidery is famous for a quality that rightly sets it apart from the rest. But it wasn’t always that way. When Emile and Vera Marghab started their company in 1932, the market for fine linens was dominated by French and Italian companies. While Madeira had an established hand embroidery industry since about 1850, its exports were directed to more everyday linens - handkerchiefs, small napkins, pillowcases, etc.
But Marghab, along with a few other companies in Madeira, decided that with some fresh approaches, Madeira had the potential to compete successfully in that luxury market. Using the talented cottage industry as a foundation, Marghab developed original designs that incorporated different European techniques, using only the finest linen from Ireland and cotton organdy from Switzerland, and demanding the most exacting handwork from its local needlewomen. Driven by standards of uncompromising perfection, Marghab turned their ambitious venture into an exciting creative success. In the process, Marghab gave fine Madeira embroidery an international spotlight that has never dimmed. And for almost 50 years, Marghab produced some of the most beautiful linens in the world.
It was a glorious run, but over time, rising production costs and changing tastes eroded the company’s financial viability. By the early 1980’s, Marghab had closed down. An era was over.
The story isn’t finished yet
But that’s not really the end of the Marghab story. The company may have closed, but Marghab linens live on. There are superb pieces out there - tablecloths, placemats, napkins and the most fabulous cocktail napkins imaginable. Marghab linens were made very beautiful and very fine, but also expressly made to last. Add to this an original costliness which ensured gentle treatment and tender care over the years, and it’s all great news for lovers of fine linen: most vintage Marghab comes to us in marvelous condition, and more entrancing than ever.
The Marghab adventure
Because of that enduring quality and beauty, people prize fine Marghab linens even today. Dedicated collectors are always on the hunt, looking to complete a set, or seeking out coveted patterns. Oh, don’t worry, Marghab hasn’t disappeared from the world. Long ago wedding presents, trousseau collections, or acquisitions by the wealthy for their dinner parties, Marghab linens continue to emerge from darkened cupboards into the light. Estate sales, auctions, antique fairs, vintage textile sites - catching sight of Marghab can make eyes widen, and hearts flutter. It’s Marghab!
Discovering a few special pieces is always a delight. But because time often scatters sets of Marghab, finding a complete set is uncommon and and exciting, especially sets for eight or twelve. Most thrilling of all are large and complete sets in the rarest Marghab patterns, like “Deer” or “Pine Cone”. For the true collector, such exceptional finds can be almost palpitation-inducing.
How do you know it’s Marghab?
Admittedly, identifying Marghab linens can be a challenge. In some fortunate cases, the Marghab name was embroidered directly onto the linen, though these are very rare instances. Marghab linens certainly don’t have tags attached in the modern way, with information on fabric content, country of origin, washing instructions, etc. Marghab had simple paper labels that were pinned or loosely basted to the linen, to be removed and discarded before use. So if the label is gone and there’s no tag, how do you know if it's really Marghab?
There are two important ways to know. First is by pattern - Marghab produced hundreds of distinct patterns, most of which are instantly recognizable to the seasoned collector. Those just starting out can familiarize themselves with Marghab patterns through books and online resources. A few of the most famous and sought-after patterns are “Deer”, “Delphinium”, and “Hydrangea”. The “Sweet Pea” is so pretty and fresh, you’ll want to pop the flowers into a vase and set it on the table. And “Strawberries” are delectable enough to eat.
The second way to recognize Marghab is through is quality - exceptionally graceful designs, superior fabrics, and the finest embroidery imaginable. This is best accomplished by studying Marghab linens in person: paying close attention to the details, feeling the fabrics, observing the workmanship close up, even how the linens wash and iron. After gaining experience with the quality inherent in Marghab linens, you may be able to identify a piece of Marghab even before you know which pattern it is!
Classic pieces, timeless artistry.
If you love a gorgeous table graced with extraordinary linens, Marghab offers remarkable quality, imaginative and lovely designs, and a timelessness that transcends contemporary trends. Marghab will set your table apart.
But it goes beyond this. Marghab’s uncompromising standards and relentless pursuit of perfection resulted in more then just “fine linens” - Marghab created true works of textile art.
Get to know Marghab better, and you’ll see for yourself.
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