About Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed is a fabric which is made manually by the residents of the Shetland Islands Harris, Lewis Uist and Barra.

Traditional Harris Tweed was characterized with soft colours, which were made of the vegetable dyestuffs. Mainly, lichens were used, which gave dark red, purple and orange rust tints. Now the fabric Harris Tweed has various colours and tints.

Production of the fabric Harris Tweed

Initially, the fabric was called tweel. According to the story of the name, about 1830 one merchant from London got a letter from the Scotch town Hawick about a fabric called tweel. The merchant took a letter “l” for “d” because he thought that the fabric’s name came from the river Tweed, which ran near the town Hawick. Later the wares were advertised under the name tweed and since then this name assigned to it forever.

During economic difficulties connected with the shortage of potato in the 1846 – 1847 Countess Catherine Murray took part in advancement and development of Harris Tweed. She copied tartan of the family Murray and with the help of local weavers carried it on tweed, which foresters began to use. To consolidate a success, she contributed to the fast advent of machine production in the process of tweed clothes manufacture. Besides, she organized and paid for training of weavers in the 1840s, what brought to significant sales growth.

With the beginning of the industrial revolution all the continent Scotland began to mechanize different manufactures actively but the Islands held to their traditional methods of production. Until the middle of the 19th century clothes were made for private use on the local market only. In the 1903 – 1906 a notable expansion in the north Scotland began. In the 1966 the peak was reached, 7,6 million yards of tweed were produced. However, Harris Tweed did not escape a serious setback, which affected textile industry of all Europe. Harris Tweed survived owing to its perfect quality and the help of the state.

Today one of the most successful advertisements for Harris Tweed was cooperation with Nike and output of the sport shoes with tweed. About 95% of the Harris Tweed production are made on the island Lewis and exported in more than 40 countries. The production is also bought by such designers as Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Steven Alan. Except its main business Harris Tweed was also materials distributor of the interior of 5-star hotel in Glasgow, what was the second project of this type for the company, which had already worked at the interior of the liner Queen Elisabeth 2 in the 1960s. The company has recently got two prestigious awards: Textile Brand 2009 and the Award for the outstanding achievements in the style area.

Today machine production replaced all the processes which were earlier made manually and weaving only is still made by hand.

Modern history of Harris Tweed

In the 2004 Nike used tweed for the outfit of the limited series of training shoes in the retro-style, which were initially produced in the 1980s. Nike ordered 10 000 meter of tweed, whose design was developed by John Mackay, who lives on the island Harris. But for Nike Harris Tweed production was used in the collection of “The Healthy Back Bag Company” produced a collection of bags, in which tweed was used.

In December 2006 businessman from Yorkshire Brian Haggas bought KM Group, which at the time was liable for 95% of Harris Tweed production. Haggas, who owned a textile manufacture, decided also to buy a little factory Parkend in the town Stornoway and closed it soon. Haggas reduced 8000 designs of tweed to four and refused to sell tweed to anybody but for his own manufactures. In May 2008 Haggas declared closing of 36 factories.

In December 2007 Harris Tweed Hebrides bought the closed factory in Stornoway. Harris Tweed Hebrides is headed by the former prime-minister of Great Britain Brian Wilson, and the main investor is his friend and the president of oil trader company Ian Taylor.

A character of the movie “Angels & Demons” and “The Da Vinci Code” wears Harris Tweed as detective Miss Marple. In this line is also Doctor Who.

The famous British designer Vivienne Westwood is a fan of Harris Tweed. The logotype of her company is very similar to the Harris Tweed logotype. In this regard Harris Tweed tried to oblige Westwood in a court case to change logotype but she won as she pointed three insignificant distinctions between logotypes of her company and Harris Tweed.

In the 2009 the British designer Sara Berman presented an exclusive collection of coats Harris Tweed.

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