Harris Tweed

A friend of mine is intensely interested in Harris Tweed. He has visited the islands where it is made, talked with the mill owners and sees an opportunity to invest in a Harris Tweed rebirth.

His interest has peeked my own and has caused a heavy influence of Tweed in many of my illustrations.

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A big question though, is Harris Tweed viable in the 21st Century?

All of the tweed is made on a specific set of islands in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. All of the tweed is home spun and can be made no other way. Parliament even enacted legislation to protect Harris Tweed from being produced anywhere else with any other standards than how it is produced in the Outer Hebrides. A special Orb is attached to all approved Harris Tweed to guarantee authenticity. The islands’ economies are almost exclusively based on the production and sale of this special wool.

With most fashion labels producing ready made clothing in large factories at ever cheaper prices the cost of doing business in the Outer Hebrides is high. Businesses are purchasing less of the heavy weight wool and expensive artisan craftsmanship to produce their items at the lowest and cheapest costs.

Is anyone interested in wool fabrics for leisure in the spring and summer?

Is there a demand for high quality and intricate craftsmanship?

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5 thoughts on “Harris Tweed

  1. tweedvixen says:

    Reblogged this on Tweedvixen's Blog and commented:
    Great Video!

  2. The video is great a real favour of the Islands. Love the illustrations too. I have a number of Harris Tweed – Sara Berman designed, however she is now not trading – such a shame that craftmanship and quality is no longer appreciated. When cheap coats are heading to landfill I will still be wearing mine, looking as good as new. People have to be educated about the “cost” of cheap clothes and the true price of quality.

  3. Onliner says:

    How relevant is the quality? The video is clear that there is attention to detail, and that it is a traditional cloth; ‘an artisan fabric’.
    But aside from keeping up the quality and bearing the costs that come with a pure source, are the makers moving with the times? For example, do they need to use old, foot-driven looms? Is the quality of the wool and resulting weave producing the sorts of materials that fashion designers and buyers demand? Are they exploring other applications for this cloth?
    Over the last few decades, woollen clothing has become very light. Outdoor pursuits increasingly rely on layered materials and even synthetics, rather than bulk items. City types are attracted by very fine fabrics that are comfortable indoors, in heated or air-conditioned rooms.
    If I am not mistaken, Harris Tweed comes in all sorts of colours, so it is quite capable of being fashionable in that regard. But is the feel, the weight and the behaviour of the fabric what people now demand? Or is it better suited to applications like furniture, or car interiors, or other areas?

    • sunflowerman says:

      You have some good thoughts. To me, the Harris Tweed is not just the end result, but the process. The intimate Harris-Tweed is not just the coat on your back, it is the sheep on the hill and the looms in the house.

      A chinese factory tweed is also not just the end product. Poorly-paid-labor Tweed is factory made, disadvantaged worker, cheap off the rack tweed.

      It might be that people don’t want to wear the Harris Tweed on their backs anymore and it may be that the direction of the product should move to furniture or walls or accessories or whatever it is, but there is no doubt that the quality is key. A lighter jacket might be more comfortable to wear in all occasions, but a Harris Tweed jacket is an experience of culture and history everywhere it is worn.

      If it is worn and tattered you don’t just toss it in the trash, you mourn the loss and yearn to have it back. A light-weight cheap jacket is lost without concern.

      Harris Tweed has not lost it’s character or its quality, it has lost its tribe. It is unfortunate that the Harris Tweed Authority offered the opportunity to get stuck and not move forward. I love the protection of the quality and the livelihood but I wish they had provided a new marketing team to preserve the identity and image of Harris Tweed.

      Thank you for the challenging thought Onliner.

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