Marghab, Vera Way, 1900-1995

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Marghab, Vera Way, 1900-1995

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Vera Way Marghab was co-founder and president of Emile Marghab Inc., New York, and Marghab, Ltd., Madeira. This business produced linens designed by Mrs. Marghab and embroidered by skilled artisans in Madeira. She was born to Stitzel X. Way and Kathryn Bacon Way on August 21, 1900 in Wesley, Iowa. / Begun in 1934 by Mrs. Marghab and her husband, Emile, the business sold linens exclusively in fine shops around the world. After Mr. Marghab's death in 1947, Mrs. Marghab managed the business alone until the political situation in Madeira forced her to close in 1984. Shortly thereafter, she returned to Watertown, S.D. where she expanded her childhood home "Wayland" on Lake Kampeska, and settled into the community. / In 1921, Emile Mogabgab, a British subject and native of Cyprus, began to manage the L. Tweel Importing Co. House, a manufacturer and importer of hand embroideries in Funchal, Madeira. After a brief stint with this company, Emile moved to F. M. Jabara and Bros., another embroidery firm in Funchal. Eventually, Emile and a friend, Gabriel Farra, organized a new business called Farra and Mogabgab Ltd., manufacturers of fine embroidery. The business operated in connection with the Jabara Company. In 1930, they leased the factory from Jabara and began to operate the business independently. By this time, they had buyers in England and in New York with Syrian-run firms and other importers. After Vera Way and Emile Marghab (Emile changed his name from Mogabgab at the insistence of Vera) were married in 1931, Emile's business began a period of healthy growth. The newly married couple began to live part of the year in Madeira. Vera began to show interest in Emile's business with ideas for management and production. By 1933, Gabriel Farra decided to sell his interest in the business. Emile took Vera on as a partner, and Vera and Emile immediately undertook a wide range of improvements. / The new company, now called Marghab Ltd., began to expand and improve its business. Emile and Vera attempted to raise the standard of the linens by purchasing the finest quality linen possible. Irish weavers provided linens that lived up to Marghab quality. Fine linen was not enough, however, so Vera and Emile also embarked on a quest to find a new fabric that would work well. The result was Margandie, a fabric patented by the Marghab Company. It was designed by Swiss weavers and made of the finest Egyptian cotton. / Vera Marghab was interested not only in the fabric, but also in the designs on the linens. Madeira embroiderers were held to exacting standards while embroidering designs created by Vera. Designs were repeated year after year to form a collection, an innovation of which Marghab, Ltd. was very proud. This was unheard of in the industry at the time, and helped set Marghab apart from other linen companies. / Another important improvement of the new company was the opening of a U.S. branch in 1934. Located in New York City, Emile Marghab Inc. began to work extensively on marketing the products produced in Madeira. The marketing of Marghab linens was the most distinctive feature of the business. Instead of offering the linens for sale in any shop that wished them, Vera devised a plan of creating Marghab Shops within certain larger stores. Stores chosen to house Marghab Shops had to adhere to strict standards, and agreed not to alter the very precise policy of the Marghab Shops. Among a number of strict guidelines, this policy included plans for shop layout and rules governing the display of linens. All shops were under the direction of a shop manager, personally trained by Vera Marghab. / The special plan for marketing the linens did not end with the establishment of the shops. All advertising was strictly limited as well. Shops could not advertise without prior approval of Vera. Standards for all aspects of the marketing were extremely high and under the iron hand of Vera. / The strict monitoring of the business maintained the high quality of the Marghab product and somewhat improved the business by 1947, when Emile Marghab passed away. At that time, the Board of Directors, with Vera Marghab at the helm, decided to continue the businesses. Vera continued to exercise utter control over all aspects of the business, especially the design and marketing of materials. / The Marghab business peaked around the time of Emile's death in 1947. After his death, the business started a gradual decline and the number of shops carrying Marghab linens slowly dropped off. Attitudes toward formal linens were changing, and the strict adherence to Marghab rules led to a decline in the shops. In addition, the Madeira embroidery guild, the (Gremio) made increasing demands that Vera found difficult to accept. Finally, by the late 1970's, these changes, coupled with political events in Portugal and Madeira, forced Vera to close the business and leave Madeira. Both businesses were fully dissolved by 1984. / Marghab linens, unsurpassed in quality, were world-famous. Many of the designs were used in palaces and embassies. Several are in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A complete collection, 1,918 pieces and 282 designs, is in the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings, S.D.


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