With Helen McAlinden & Jen Murray
It’s a sunny day by the river in Foxford and Jen Murray, Head of Retail & Buying, is joined in the mill by
designer Helen McAlinden to discuss some of the inspiration behind Foxford bed linen. One of Ireland’s
foremost designers, Helen has worked with the team at Foxford for over twenty years. Together, Helen
and Jen design and source every product sold in the store and online. Join them as they discuss why, this
year more than ever, the bed linen collection is so close to their hearts.
“When I started working for Foxford, over 20 years ago, Joe brought me in to revamp the product. I
designed a very small collection of throws in a minimalist, modern idiom, which was totally different from
anything that they’d produced before. The natural development for Foxford was in other products you
could use for a bedroom, so that’s when we began to develop the sheets.
A lot of people talk about thread count but not a lot of people talk about the quality of the actual yarn. We
only use combed cotton, it’s long fibre cotton and much smoother. We did some initial and careful
sourcing in northern Portugal, since it has a long history of textile production, and eventually found two
or three sources which we still use today.
The prints are developed by me and my team here at Foxford, and colour is a big thing for us. We look at
trends, not only in fashion, but also in paint and interiors, for inspiration.”
“We also draw a lot on the success of previous collections and learn from each one.”
“One of our conscious, and unconscious, sources of inspiration has always been nature. The leaf print has
been so good, and we have a new one called The Fern. Toile du jouy has also always been in our DNA. My
own design aesthetic is clean and cool and simple, but a teeny bit of vintage in a new way is always
“Personally, I love the green leaf with the mini kisses or the criss-cross print, I just love the contrasting
prints, because it’s something you don’t see other brands doing very regularly. You don’t often see groups
of different prints that complement one another. ”
“Yes, I think that’s one of the things that makes us unique, because we don’t design prints in isolation, we
design groups of prints, it’s part of the DNA of our brand.”
“That’s what we say. It’s not intended to be all one thing, it’s a mix and match. And that’s where the
development of our sleepwear is going to be so much part of the brand as well. We try to keep our core
colours consistent. Yes, we do add a new one every so often, but this gives our customers the chance to
build their own wardrobe.”
“Or to freshen it up, and fall in love with an old Foxford set all over again.”
“Exactly. The pandemic has led to people being much more focused on their homes. We spend one third of
our lives in bed, and good sleep can really enhance the quality of your life. That means a comfortable bed
and really good quality sheets.”
One of the first things I think about when buying bed linen is print, and what’s going to go with the rest
of the room, but that’s what we do really well. The prints are usually quite subtle but they still tie in with
other prints that you may already have in the room.
One of the things that we always need to remember is that the bed linen developed from the woven
product here in the mill, it developed from the throws. Every time we develop a bed linen range, we have a
Foxford throw too. Texture is so important, the mohair throw looks really good at the bottom of a bed.
People want to snuggle into a throw as a finishing touch.
Foxford started off with a history of giving employment to this community – and we work in a wonderful
old building which really gives inspiration to everything we do.
“We’re privileged really.”
You feel the history of the place. Even though we’re now a contemporary lifestyle brand, we are still very
sensitive to the environment that we’re working in. I mean we’re here, listening to the noise of the looms
underneath us, and it’s really inspiring. And I still love writing the weave plans, it’s at the very core of
what we do.
Do you think you’ll ever revisit one of the original throws?
I’m more interested in the potential of the brand as we move on, but sometimes it’s good to look back to