Harris Tweed production soars to meet rising demand

Harris Tweed is in demand. Picture: TSPL
Harris Tweed is in demand. Picture: TSPL
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Some 1.7 million metres of Harris Tweed were produced last year – enough to stretch from the Isle of Harris itself to London and back.

The figure – which compares with just 455,000 metres of cloth produced in 2009 – was revealed during an event at London Fashion Week, where Scottish Secretary David Mundell said Harris Tweed was “setting trends right across the world”.

Mundell added that the industry, now estimated to be worth almost £11 million, plays a significant role for employment on the Hebridean islands but also to the wider Scottish and UK economies.

The market for Harris Tweed has risen sharply over the past two years, with a significant increase in UK-based orders, and British designer Margaret Howell 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.”

The explosion in demand from consumers has also been driven by the material’s popularity among fashion houses such as Chanel, Vivienne Westwood and Yves Saint Laurent, with celebrity customers such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow helping to raise its profile.

READ MORE: Soaring demand sees Harris Tweed investment

Norman L Macdonald, chairman of the Harris Tweed Authority, 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 into stunning collections which are shown on catwalks of the world’s fashion capitals.”