Harris Tweed blog – why it’s a Hebridean treasure
The cloth that comes from the land.
Harris Tweed is a remarkable product. Few places in the world can claim to have a product that resoundingly embodies the history, the heritage and the appeal of itself. The Isle of Harris can. From the sheep shearing to the hand weaving by loom in the homes of Harris crofters, this is cloth with a story. The long-since outdated view of Tweed as scratchy, coarse and dull has been replaced by the image of endless Hebridean colouring, hardy durability and genuine practicality.
It has come a long way over the centuries and now serves a worldwide market – Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Yohji Yamamoto and even Alpha Romeo cars all use the stuff imaginatively in their designs. Excitingly the rapidly developing economies of Russia, India, China and Brazil are welcoming it with open arms as well. Aside from being lauded in the fashion world as a high-quality, luxury material, it is also environmentally sustainable and is close to being carbon-neutral.
Harris Tweed is remarkably resilient as well as being agelessly cool. As if the Outer Hebrides could ever produce anything less. But don’t take my word for it:
Exhibit A – George Mallory sets off on a climbing exhibition of Everest in 1924, never returning. His body was dramatically discovered in 1999, preserved in ice. He was identified by a name tag on his jacket, which was in remarkably good condition 75 years later. Guess what the jacket was made out of.
Exhibit B – Harris Tweed was the unofficial uniform of CIA agents on overseas missions. Who needs Kevlar eh?
Exhibit C – you can now buy Harris Tweed hoodies. Imagine that coming at you in a dark alley, how civilised.
Exhibit D – the crazy-cool Schott NYC biker jackets became iconic thanks to the likes of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Jon Bon Jovi. The Schott Perfecto range has been redesigned in Harris Tweed.
A visit to the Isle of Harris would not be complete without a wander round the new Harris Tweed shop at Tarbert. Bags, jackets, hats, tea cosies, iPad covers…it’s all there. Better still is the Harris Tweed and Knitwear ‘Clo Mor’ (big cloth) Exhibition 5 miles along the road. A pristine spot in the village of Drinishader is the base for this quick tour of the brand’s origins and the story of how it still maintains a resolute position of pride, even in the moody world of fashion. It transpires that there is precious little that can’t be made from this stuff.
Along with the world class Isle of Harris beaches, Harris Tweed is the first thing that springs to mind when reflecting on this glorious part of the world. The demand for the stuff is burgeoning and while the recession has brought so many brands to its knees, this is one product that seems to have only accelerated in growth in the last few years. I think it’s fair to say there’s a need, a need for tweed.