Harris Tweed Hebrides sews up new partnership to help boost demand

Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen is joining forces with Harris Tweed Hebrides, as the company looks to explore product developments and new international markets.

The organisations will work together for two years under a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the aim of providing “year-round and sustainable” business demand for the Harris Tweed Hebrides brand and the home weaver industry on the isles of Lewis and Harris.

Harris Tweed Hebrides, which says it is the largest of the three tweed mills currently in operation, produces about two thirds of all Harris Tweed. It employs 140 weavers, who all work independently on a treadle loom.

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Under the guidance of RGU academics, Josie Steed from Gray’s School of Art, and Karen Cross from the School of Creative and Cultural Business, and KTP associate Beth Wilson, the partnership will look to embed “sustainable business practices and a culture of innovation-led design into Harris Tweed Hebrides”.

The partnership aims to keep Harris Tweed Hebrides 'at the forefront of the textiles industry'. Picture: contributed.

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Ruth Masson, marketing manager at Harris Tweed Hebrides, said: “We’re looking forward to collaborating with the RGU team on this exciting KTP project. Together we aim to target new markets and keep Harris Tweed Hebrides at the forefront of the textiles industry.”

Ms Steed said: “This is a very exciting project and presents a huge opportunity for the university to work closely with a very well-known organisation to support its ambitions to expand into new markets.

“One of the big challenges which Harris Tweed Hebrides encounters is the seasonality of its product offer. We are going to be exploring opportunities in the growing accessories and interiors markets, and non-seasonal products that could help the mill and weavers to have year-round work.

“By partnering with the university, Harris Tweed Hebrides will gain a raft of technical expertise and resources, which will hopefully help the organisation to evolve and flourish.”

This project is funded by Innovate UK’s KTPs programme and is co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The UK-wide programme has been helping businesses for the past 40 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base, and it says it often delivers significant increased profitability for business partners.

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