A woman who managed to send one of her self-designed shirts to US President Barack Obama is now doing the same for David Cameron.
Joan Morrow-Ghali has designed a shirt for the Prime Minister following his visit to Ulster this month, in recognition of the praise he lavished on the Province.
And with the possibility of a big contract for her in the pipeline, Mrs Morrow-Ghali suggested the much-shrunken Ulster linen industry of today may find its salvation through very high-end goods, instead of the mass-produced fare of old.
The Londonderry woman made the news in June after offering Obama a shirt bearing the crest of his Offaly-based ancestors.
Her latest creation is a cream-coloured, roughly size-16 Irish linen shirt for Mr Cameron, featuring an image of the Titanic museum and worth about £300-plus.
She is reluctant to say how she got Obama’s shirt to him for “security reasons”.
And asked how she will manage to deliver Cameron’s one, she said: “I’m still actually working it out.” But she sounds confident she can do it.
It is also a sign of what she sees as the future for Irish linen.
Mrs Morrow-Ghali, who founded JoanLido Irish Heritage Designs about four years ago, said Ulster is clearly not going to compete at the lower end of mass production, and instead must “compete with high-luxury shirts”.
“In Northern Ireland we take this fabric very much for granted,” she said.
“We were originally thinking of working in silk, but in the US it’s very common. Irish linen is what they love.
“(It) is the most expensive fabric in the world. Do you know why? Because of the skill of Northern Irish weavers in the Co Down area. It’s been passed down from generation to generation.”
She just bought some Irish linen from a Co Down firm for £103 per metre, while cotton costs about £25 per metre.
Mrs Morrow-Ghali is hopeful of signing a large-scale contract soon with a big-league New York retailer (which she would not name).
If successful she wants to keep production in Ulster; though she wants Invest NI’s help in doing so. If the numbers fail to stack up, she warned moving production to China may be the only option.
“I’d be going to China as a last resort; with a heavy heart. It’d be soul-destroying for me if it came to that,” said the former Belfast town planner, who designed, among other things, the square behind the Crown Bar.
“I could make them in China, but imagine leaving a city of skilled shirt-makers to go to China! That’s very terrible.”
As for the new shirt, she said she got “good feedback” on her gift for Obama, and is hoping the UK PM will likewise welcome her work.