Katie McClure (39) and Erin Breen (43), co-founders of MIRTH, @mirthcaftans
Conceptualized on a trip to India, the ethically made resort line, Mirth—founded by Houston-based sister duo, Katie McClure and Erin McClure Breen—is in the business of whisper-thin, travel-friendly kaftans you can feel good about. The pieces are all hand-loomed, weaved, and dyed by highly skilled artisans in India.
Founded in 2016, the label has quickly grown and is stocked in many boutiques across the world, including the US, Greece, Turkey and on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.com.
How have your travels inspired your careers?
Our travels inspired us to start MIRTH and continue to inspire all of our content and design work. India is quite possibly the best place on earth for inspo! The little villages where our weavers live and work are full of inspo - even household rags or market bags that seem boring to them are incredible for us. We're always looking, taking notes, sketching during our time there. Daily attire for men is always beautiful to see - the fabrics are so lovely and drape better with each wash. They drape gorgeous old textured blankets over their shoulders when it's cold instead of coats - so chic! We try to replicate that effortless look.
When did you discover your love for travel?
Katie: I've always loved the adventure & discovery of travel. When I travelled with my parents as a little girl, I would beg them to book multiple connections so I could say "see you later!" after check-in and be on my own to navigate the airport, figure out a transfer and board the plane. I told them they weren't allowed to talk to me until we reached our destination! I'm much friendlier when I travel with them now :) It was when I lived in Switzerland that I really go to travel deeper and slower, which is the best way. I adore travelling alone - your senses are heightened and really allows you to be present and experience culture.
Tell us about your favourite travel destination.
Erin: I enjoy a slower-paced trip, especially those with wellness or spiritual component. I love Kripalu Yoga Center in the hills of Massachusetts and Miraval in Sedona desert. Katie and I loved Vana retreat in northern India - heaven!
Katie: I love exploring Europe - the Alps speak to me and after living in Switzerland for two years, a road trip there is my ideal trip. The Dolomites in Northern Italy are incredible, The mountains around Zermatt in Switzerland, or where the Alps become rolling hills in Southern France.
Any hidden markets, shops or restaurants you’re willing to share with us?
Erin: A few favourite unique shops around the world full of treasures: the vintage store Thanx God I'm A VIP in Paris, Clic in the Hamptons (with locations in Marin, California and NYC) not just because they carry MIRTH! - and Love Adorned in the Hamptons.
Katie: In Mumbai, you can't miss Bungalow 8. It is one of the world's best stores, I think! One of the most special restaurants on the planet is Chez Vrony in Zermatt - it is a hike to get to this hut, but the food is so fresh and delish and the atmosphere can't be beaten.
You’ve both travelled far and wide, so what are your top travel tips?
Erin: When trying to recharge, leaving your phone in your room is essential. Spend a whole day unplugged!
Katie: Rent a car and explore! Especially in the age of Instagram, my advice is, if you've heard of it, don't go there because it will be swarmed with tourists and lose its authenticity. Go to places you've not heard of and see what you find.
What are your top travel tips when it comes to discovering beautiful hotels, restaurants or sites?
It has changed so much in recent years thanks to Instagram and we're still figuring out how to navigate this new hyper-connected world. I like to read articles from local designers about where they go in their home city - it usually varies a bit from what you see mentioned everywhere and designers tend to have a similar taste. Conversely, I now put a call out on Instagram to our followers for tips - on a recent Mexico City trip, I did very little preparation and the city is full of incredible restaurants and museums and galleries, so it was hard to decide what to do. But thanks to a post on stories, I got some spot-on recs for the best places to go.
Where and what is your favourite hotel?
Katie: Either the Lake Palace in Uddaipur or the Storfjord, a lovely small hotel sitting on the fjords in Norway.
Erin: There's a hotel in Costa Rica that my husband and I always return to called the Harmony Hotel - we surf and do yoga and eat the most amazing fresh food.
What’s your favourite travel treasure?
We always pick up vintage textiles in India - it is a treasure trove there, how can you not?
Katie: I have some handmade batik fabrics from Bali that I love as well.
Erin: I bought a big, thick, hand-loomed ivory wool shawl in India after seeing local men wrapped in similar ones during cold weather. It is my single most prized possession and only gets better with age.
What kind of traveller are you?
Katie: We get very limited vacation time in the US, so I used to plan every moment, knowing each day was precious and I wouldn't have the chance to travel again for a long time. It pains me to have a bad meal or fall for a tourist trap when an incredible restaurant is right down the street but you didn't have your research done. I still have those thoughts, but I've taken the attitude of "if I love it, I can always come back" and now know that I'll never go everywhere and do everything regardless of planning. So now I plan a few things I really want to do and take time to learn a bit about neighbourhoods in general, but leave room for wandering. I also always research bakeries and good coffee, two of my favourite things that usually lead to interesting parts of the city.
Erin: Free-spirited, 100%! But when I travel with Katie, she plans well and I just go with the flow. I do insist on some spa time in the itinerary, though.
Where was your most recent trip?
Katie: I was in Los Angeles for a pop up last month and spend a few days holed up on the coast after work was finished - it was heaven to do nothing for 2 days. The last non-work trip was Mexico City - I was blown away by this incredible, art-filled, leafy city.
Erin: I'm on a trip now! I come to the Hamptons in New York with my family and in-laws each summer. We're in a small, old fashioned beach town where life is simple and slow. We go to the beach, eat lobster rolls, visit the lighthouse and cook from farmstands. We live in Texas which gets so hot in the summer and this respite revives me before Autumn.
What is your next overseas trip?
Katie: I'm headed to India in October to work on production for our Spring collection, and will stop for a week in Belgium and the Netherlands on the way. But before that, we're planning our annual trip for our Spring 2020 photoshoot at the end of the summer... we're headed to Mexico to stay at the incredible Coqui Coqui.
Erin: I just got back from Paris with my husband, so I'm staying in the US for a while! We're currently in Miami (another rec here - the Four Seasons Surf Club - incredible!) After our photoshoot trip to Mexico, I probably won't travel overseas until we go to India in February, but we do have a long weekend at a friend's ranch in the Texas country.
We absolutely love your designs - tell us more about MIRTH!
The idea for MIRTH came about when we were travelling together in India. The purpose of the trip was to recharge after a series of life changes and to find a sense of purpose and direction for what to pursue next. We fell in love with the rich-heritage textiles in India, and the people who are so warm and make you feel like family as soon as you meet them. We started with chic and modern caftans using only natural materials (mostly cotton) and now design and full line of resort wear and accessories. But we love a good caftan and always have a few each season! What else can you throw on with nothing more than a sandal or a heel and be chic and put together without any effort? And when it's hot, a light and breezy caftan is the only thing tolerable!
Fast forward a handful of years later, and we are in our 10th season of producing MIRTH collections in India. We have a production team in Delhi and work with artisan groups in regions across the country, like handloom weavers and block printers. We travel to India one to two times a year to meet with our partners and to collaborate on the designs. Each visit reinspires and reminds us why we started our company in the first place. Being able to see firsthand how MIRTH is positively impacting communities and providing dignified income to artisan families is one of the most gratifying parts of our job.
Our goal is to create thoughtful & comfortable clothing that makes you feel good wearing it, that you keep in your closet forever and reach for first when you get dressed. We want to tell the stories behind our fabrics and share the handloom and hand block printing craft in new ways with the world.
You can find Erin and Katie online at mirthcaftans.com and at @mirthcaftans.