Harris Tweed has been handwoven on the Islands of Lewis, Harris, Uist, Barra for over 105 years. Historically synonymous with tweed blazers and gents tailoring the cloth has undergone a renaissance in the past 10 years. Now used for a huge variety of products as diverse as iPad covers, trainers, handbags, and hip flasks.
Production of Harris Tweed fell to a low of less than 500,000 meters in 2007 from its 1966 peak of 7.6 meters but the cloth has made a stunning comeback.
So how did a traditional cloth go from the doldrums to high fashion, from the crofts to the catwalk?
This upturn can be put down to a number of factors. Firstly, Harris Tweed is loved and has been adopted by many major fashion labels such as Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Maison Martin Margiela. These designers love both the quality of the fabric but also the history and mystique surrounding it.
“The fabric is synonymous with sartorial savoir-faire,” says the team at Margiela. “It is something the Maison strongly admires.”
- Harris tweed in the autumn/winter 2014 designs of Gieves & Hawkes; Maison Martin Margiela; Vivienne Westwood (Gold Label); Margaret Howell.
- Harris Tweed Collection By Vivienne Westwood.
- Women’s Harris Tweed jacket by Chanel.
The appeal of Harris tweed to high fashion brands is its roughness and coarse texture- perfect for creating a provocative yet classy look.
Harris Tweed continues to be a mainstay of gentlemen's outfitters and tailors as it has been since it first went into production. Jason Basmajian, Chief Creative Officer of Gieves & Hawkes says "Harris tweed is almost always present in our winter collections".
TV and Film
Harris tweed has successfully found a new audience in younger people who love its classic appeal. Gordon Richardson, Top Man's creative director, said there was a strong interest among younger men in "noble" fabrics, like Harris tweed, who want fabrics with a rich history and tradition.
"There's this whole mood for all things heritage," Richardson said. "So one of our ranges is using something that has a history, has a past, and has a resonance with something which has existed before, rather than something purely futuristic. There's also the whole British thing, so they love the whole heritage thing."
- Peaky Blinders wearing Harris Tweed.
Harris Tweed's image has also been boosted by a number of high-profile celebrity wearers such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Smith, Tinie Tempah, and Prince Charles. Featuring heavily in TV shows such as Peaky Blinders and The Crown.
- Matt Smith wore a vintage Harris Tweed blazer for his Doctor Who debut.
Part of the charm of the heritage brand is its classic, enduring style, and character. “We don’t want ‘Harris Tweed’ to be in fashion or indeed out of fashion,” says the Creative Director. “Trends and fashions will change, so we try to supersede them by offering a range of styles and patterns.”
From years of getting to know Tweed, there is plenty we love about the unique fabric. Our favorite facts include:
- Harris Tweed is protected by an act of Parliament - it must only be woven by Outer Hebridean islanders from wool dyed and spun on those islands
- The wool comes from 3 specific species of sheep Black face, Crossbred, or Cheviot
- Harris Tweed was originally called Clo Mor
- 1966 was the record peak production year for Harris tweed, with 7 million meters being produced
Here at The Scotland Kilt Company, we hope to keep bringing you traditionally handwoven Harris Tweed for many years to come.