"Harris Tweed is more than a type of cloth that has a practical and fashionable application. Harris Tweed is a way of life and a tradition that contributes to the social and economic circumstances of one of the most remote and de-populated areas of the United Kingdom: the Outer Hebrides."
David Pirnie 1981
It is said that history repeats itself and this is certainly true for Harris Tweed. Generations of weavers from the Outer Hebrides have continued to produce 'clo mor' which means big cloth in Gaelic, Harris Tweed. What was once a local product similar to hand woven tweeds throughout Scotland found fame via society ladies who saw it's potential and brought it to the attention of the sporting gentry.
Harris Tweed become the fashionable fabric of choice in sporting wear for the aristocracy and landed gentry. Today's young fashion aficionado also recognises the quality and fashion statement that wearing Harris Tweed brings. Top designers show their creations on the world catwalks, interior designers furnish modern homes and boutique hotels with Harris tweed and young professionals even cover their tech in it. How many know the true origin of their tweed? In today's modern society are they aware that an individual weaver spent their hours at a loom taking time and care in creating, by hand, a fabric that across the decades has stood the test of time?
The Harris Tweed weavers are all self employed individuals who work from home, often weaving and crofting go together. Crofters maintain a smallholding raising sheep, a few cattle, grow vegetables and subsidise their income with weaving. A lifestyle so far removed from city life it is hard to comprehend, it works both ways. Whilst the weaver is proud of their 'clo mor' and the heritage that comes with it, they are well informed as to its use and are some somewhat bemused (delighted) at the innovative uses of Harris Tweed in the modern world. Very different worlds come together in the weaving and manufacturing of Harris Tweed products and to the benefit of all.
Those articles abound on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines describing Harris Tweed as the only fabric in the world to be protected by its own act of parliament are true. It is also true that each tweed length has has been handwoven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides. This is what gives each item of genuine Harris Tweed the right to display the famous Orb logo, if the logo isn't there then it isn't Harris Tweed.
To truly understand the relationship between the island weavers and their cloth you need to come and visit, see for yourself these islands on the edge. Look on the landscapes that coloured the cloth, each season adding new and different hues and designs. Red sunsets, blue skies, turquoise sea and the ever changing moorland and ever present history that wraps around you like the tweed itself.
Owning, or using Harris Tweed is only part of the story, come and experience the rest.