From the Crofts to the Catwalk - The renaissance of Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed has been hand woven on the islands of 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, ladies hand bags and hip flasks.

Production of Harris Tweed fell to a low of less than 500,000 meteres in 2007 from its 1966 peak of 7.6 meters but the cloth has made a stunning comeback.

So how did a traditonal cloth go from the doldrums to high fashion, from the crofts to the catwalk?

Harris tweed in the autumn/winter 2014 designs of Gieves & Hawkes; Maison Martin Margiela; Vivienne Westwood (Gold Label); Margaret Howell

This upturn can be put down to a number of factors. Firstly, Harris Tweed is loved and has been adopted by many major fashions 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 Collection By Vivienne Westwood

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 gentlemens 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".

 

Harris tweed has succesfully 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: 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 and 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."

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.”

Harris tweed factfile

- Harris tweed is protected by an act of Parliament- it must only be woven by Outer herbridean islanders from wool dyed and spun on those islands

-The wool comes from 3 specific species of sheep Black face, Cross bred or Cheviot

- harris tweed was originally called Clo Mor

- 1966 was the record peak production year for Harris tweed , 7 million metres being produced

 

We, at The Scotland Kilt Company, hope to keep bringing you traditionally hand woven Harris Tweed for many years to come.