Since the dawn of time the traditional craft of Harris Tweed has been passed down from generation to generation in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.
Originally made for personal use, the local production of this fabric became popular thanks to the Countess of Dunmore in the middle of the 19th century: understanding the economic potential of tweed and its exceptional quality, she decided to use it for the suits of the local gamekeepers and finally exported them to London. With such success ahead of her she perfected the production techniques and arranged for the training of the workers so that they could compete with the consistency of the machine made fabrics.
The industrial revolution would not get the better of Harris Tweed which pursued its handmade momentum and reached new heights of production in the first half of the 20th century. With such enthusiasm for the product, the Harris Tweed Association which was established to protect the designation of these exceptional fabrics, proposed a vote in Parliament in 1909: Harris Tweed fabric would always be stamped with their logo – the famous jewelled Orb – each fabric having been “dyed and spun on the islands and handwoven at the home of the weaver in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland”.
In 1993, the Harris Tweed Association, gave way to the Harris Tweed Authority which established itself as the guardian of the Orb in supervising the production, from start to finish, of this protected designation. In the same year the law defined the label, stating that from then on Harris Tweed was only fabric which “has been handwoven by the 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”.
Exported today to more than fifty countries from China to the USA, passing by Brasil and Russia, Harris Tweed has as equally found its place in made to measure suits as on the catwalks, or even in Nike limited edition trainers.
Centenary Label, 2010
Ad, Harris Tweed Association Ltd, 1936