Harris Tweed producer targets Spanish market as demand rises

The largest producer of Harris Tweed has announced plans to push into Spain, where King Felipe is said to be a fan of the brand.

The spinning machines in Harris Tweed Hebrides mill, North Shawbost, Isle of Lewis. Picture: Harris Tweed Hebrides

According to The Times, an event hosted at the British embassy this year introduced representatives from Harris Tweed Hebrides, the biggest of three Harris Tweed mills, to potential clients who could help the Scottish brand to conquer the boutiques of the Basque country and the markets of Madrid.

Brian Wilson, the company’s chairman and a former Labour energy minister, hopes that the handwoven wool, which was first made in the Outer Hebrides, will be a natural fit for fashion-conscious Spaniards in the colder climate of the north.

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King Felipe and his father, Juan Carlos, have always worn suits made by Jaime Gallo, a tailor in Madrid, who has worked with Harris Tweed since the 1970s.

Originally, the fabric was woven by crofters for their own use as protection against the climate of the north of Scotland.

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The wool has recently been seen on the catwalks in alliances with labels such as Prada, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Harris Tweed Hebrides also plans to expand into Spain, France, Italy and Japan.

Mr Wilson, whose company produces 75 per cent of all Harris Tweed, said that Spanish tastes in fashion made the country a potentially lucrative market.

“Our fabrics have traditionally been identified with an older person who liked countryside pursuits,” he said. “Now we believe there is a younger generation below the age of 40 who, once they get to know our fabrics, will come to like our classic look. In Spain, these are the readers of Hola! or Vanity Fair who admire that pseudo-aristocratic look.

“Another reason for targeting Spain is it is not all about the costas and the Mediterranean heat. It gets pretty cold here and it has weather similar to Britain in many places, especially in Madrid.”

Last week the Spanish edition of Vanity Fair interviewed Mark Hogarth, creative director of Harris Tweed Hebrides, and wrote: “If this cloth made from virgin Scottish wool, with its irregular and hairy texture and rustic yet soft look, has found a gap in the 21st century market it is down to Mr Hogarth’s work.”

Harris Tweed Hebrides, which employs 200 staff at mills in the Outer Hebrides, recorded pre-profits of £2.2 million in 2015 and turnover of £10.9m.