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Harris Tweed riding high in downtown Tokyo

A tweed-themed bicycle ride around Tokyo at Japan Fashion Week. Picture: AFP/Getty

A tweed-themed bicycle ride around Tokyo at Japan Fashion Week. Picture: AFP/Getty

  • by MARTYN MCLAUGHLIN
 

IT IS attire fit not only for the rolling moors of deepest Perthshire, but the neon metropolis of Tokyo.

In a sign of Harris Tweed’s global style influence, the material has emerged as the star of this year’s Japan Fashion Week.

In a fusion of the old and the new, models sported traditional hunting, shooting and fishing outfits – as well as tweed trainers as part of the curtain raiser for the annual event.

Entitled Tweed Run Tokyo, the event began with a-themed bike ride around the metropolis, with about 150 people taking part. The cyclists including models who put a Japanese twist on the product, donning the likes of tweed blousons.

Fashionistas in Tokyo, long regarded as a capital with its finger on the pulse of new trends, said the pure wool, hand woven in the Outer Hebrides, was the ideal fit for a “city of concrete”.

The high-profile endorsement is the latest demonstration of how Scotland’s tweed manufacturers – above all Harris Tweed Hebrides – are enjoying a new wave of young, fashion-conscious clientèle around the world.

The award-winning company, based at Shawbost on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, accounts for around 90 per cent of Harris Tweed production.

It exports its iconic cloth to more than 60 countries and counts major design houses such as Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and YSL among its customers.

But the scenes from Japan Fashion Week showed how it is revered most in the far east, with influential companies like United Arrows avowed fans of the Scots cloth.

“Tweed is being used in completely different ways now,” explained Kazunobu Hirayama, a manager at the Woolmark Company in Japan.

“But that is because the fabric has the quality, even if that is not immediately visible. That is the quality supported by history. No matter how casual the style it is applied to, it still looks stylish overall.”

Another at the event, Keisuke Ikeya, wore a tweed patchwork jacket. He said fashion creatives in Japan were excited about its applications, pointing to the way the cloth was being used for trainers. “Take these shoes,” he said. “Tokyo is a city of concrete, and tweed sneakers fit this environment. It’s so Tokyo, I would say.

“We are using this traditional fabric in many modern ways. It’s part of the diversity of fashion.”

Katsura Hatsushika, who also took part in the Tweed Run, carried a Harris Tweed teddy bear, whose paws were made from patches of the fabric.

“I think we have created many cute tweed items here, including even stationery, like a pen case. I think it’s a very Japanese way of doing things.” she said.

Mark Hogarth: Love of the artisan helped save industry

In Japan, there is a fascination – some might say an obsession – with well-made goods.

The Japanese way is not just to look at the finished product, but the process involved in its creation. Even when Harris Tweed was at its very lowest ebb, the Japanese were still looking to buy it.

The fact you can be a bit more aggressive with cuts with Harris Tweed and create a bespoke element really appeals to the Japanese.

They’ve been integral in saving the whole industry, because not only are they the biggest client, but they have helped promote the story and provenance of how it is hand woven.

Quite a few companies create loose-fitting artists’ working shirts with big pockets and soft silhouettes.

The artisanal aspect of Harris Tweed is something the country really taps into and it really appreciates the romanticism of it – and having Japan as our main market really helps all our other markets.

• Mark Hogarth is the creative director of Harris Tweed Hebrides

 

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