As London Fashion Week opened in the capital, Harris Tweed took centre stage yesterday (Monday 22 February) celebrating the UK’s revived love affair with the luxury hand-woven fabric.
The sought-after cloth took pride of place at Dover House in Whitehall to mark sustained global production growth over the past seven years - particularly in the UK market.
An enviable guest list of VIPs enjoyed a Hebridean gala, with traditional Scottish music and fare, hosted by the Harris Tweed Authority and the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, MP.
Showcased on the catwalk were outfits from UK designers such as Nigel Cabourn, Art Comes First and Walker Slater as well as two ensembles straight from Margaret Howell’s London Fashion Week collection.
A cloth which a long time ago may have been synonymous with the ‘Miss Marple’ look is now a high fashion must-have with many of the world’s leading fashion houses vying for the fabric as a staple of their A/W collections, recognising the quality that comes with the ‘Made in Britain’ tag.
The UK market for Harris Tweed has grown exponentially over the past two years, with a significant increase in UK based orders.
Across the entire sector in 2015 production of the unique and legally protected hand-woven cloth soared to 1.7 million metres.
Thanks to seasoned and new designers embracing the versatility of Harris Tweed it has witnessed a welcomed resurgence across many home collections.
As British designer Margaret Howell who showed at London Fashion Week on Sunday and has a long affiliation with Harris Tweed said:
A lover of wild open spaces, I feel an empathy with Harris Tweed. Weaving on hand looms creates a depth and complexity of texture that can’t be imitated by a mechanical process. The resilient wool, the designs in earthy colours – reflect the landscape, the climate and the skills of the local people who produce it.
I’ve always been attracted by its authenticity, and chose Harris Tweed when designing my first winter jacket and overcoat. I’ve used it ever since.
The renewed affection for the fabric in the UK as well as aboard is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the weavers, the work of the mills and Harris Tweed Authority who work tirelessly to promote and protect this iconic industry which is protected by an Act of Parliament and more recently a Grant of Arms.
Harris Tweed Authority chairman, Norman L Macdonald said:
The UK market really understands the quality and unique characteristics of Harris Tweed. We are so proud to see the cloth which is hand-woven at the homes of just 175 weavers on the islands of Lewis and Harris transformed in to stunning collections which are shown on catwalks of the world’s fashion capitals.
We are grateful to have such support and loyalty from designers and fashion houses on our doorstep as well as our international clients.
To celebrate in the UK capital at the start of London Fashion Week is a perfect way to mark our continued growth and the craftsmanship that still remains true to honouring the unique production methods of Harris Tweed.
With the industry now estimated to be worth nearly £11 million, it plays a significant role - not only for employment on the Hebridean islands but also the industry’s contribution to both Scotland and UK economies.
Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said:
I am delighted to host the Harris Tweed fashion show at the Scotland Office. Harris Tweed is a beautiful product – close to its heritage and geographic roots, yet setting trends right across the world.
The collection shown at Dover House will be superb, and I am very pleased that the Scotland Office is playing a part in promoting this iconic Scottish product to the world.