Emile and Vera Way Marghab founded Marghab Linens, Ltd., on the Portuguese island of Madeira in 1933. Together, Emile, a native of Cyprus (then a British Colony) and Vera Way, a native of Watertown, South Dakota, established one of the finest embroidery houses in Madeira. Because of the couple's planning, dedication and desire for the "continual pursuit of perfection", Marghab Linens flourished for forty-seven years (1933-1980).
The Marghab Collection at the South Dakota Art Museum was started in 1970 with the donation of nearly 800 pieces. Since 1970, additional gifts were made by Vera Way Marghab and the trustees for her estate. Today the collection consists of more than 300 patterns and nearly 2,800 linens and is the most complete and extensive collection of Marghab Linens in the world.
Madeira and hand embroidery have been synonymous since the embroidery industry was brought to this small island in 1850. Although the Industrias de Bordados was well established by the time Emile and Vera Way Marghab began their business, it was the Marghabs that raised quality standards to an unprecedented level. The exacting standards of Marghab Linens ensured them of being favorites among royalty, diplomats and admirers of fine things.
Marghab Linens Ltd. rapidly became internationally recognized for the quality and exacting detail of its beautiful linens. Designs were hand-embroidered by the most skilled embroiderers. The embroideries were done on fabrics of the finest linen from Ireland, and on Margandie®, a crisp yet transparent fabric imported from Switzerland. The floss that would embellish the fabric with design was specially dyed in England and France.
Since the closure of Marghab Linens Ltd. in 1980, hand-embroidered linens continue to be made on the Island of Madeira by other firms. However, the level of perfection attained by Marghab Linens has not been matched. Marghab Linens are appreciated for their beauty, quality in design, materials, craftsmanship and magnificence.