Harris Tweed brings ‘Boom Times’ to furniture maker

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A unique collaboration between the Preston-based furniture maker Tetrad and Scotland’s iconic Harris Tweed has been hailed as a “flagship partnership for British manufacturing” linking traditional craftsmanship in different parts of the country and exporting to more than 50 overseas markets.

Tetrad’s managing director, Janus Cooper, said that the Harris Tweed connection has been “transformational” for his company and accounted for a 30 per cent increase in business last year.

Today (Tuesday) at the UK’s major furniture exhibition in Birmingham, Tetrad will launch a new range of Harris Tweed furniture described as “mid-century modern” in style.

Mr Cooper explained that Tetrad’s love affair with Harris Tweed began by chance at a trade show in Paris two years ago.

“A chap came on the stand wearing a beautiful Harris Tweed jacket which my father and I loved. Then we quite literally went round the corner and saw fabulous Harris Tweed luggage. We looked at each other and thought - maybe there’s something in this”.

They quickly travelled to the Isle of Lewis to find out more about the fabric and placed their first order with Harris Tweed Hebrides in Shawbost just over a year ago.

Since then, Tetrad’s range of classic Harris Tweed furniture has become their biggest seller at both home and abroad. Mr Cooper said that orders have “gone crazy” in recent weeks - “we are back to the boom times of 15 years ago”.

Ian Angus Mackenzie, chief executive of Harris Tweed Hebrides said: “Harris Tweed is associated mainly with fashion though there has always been some small-scale use for interiors.

“Tetrad are the first major furniture manufacturer to fully recognise this potential and the speed with which the whole thing has taken off is astonishing. From nowhere, they are now one of our biggest customers and it is a pleasure to work with another craft-based, UK industry”.

Inspiration for the new collection - which is being launched at the major interiors shows in both Birmingham and Cologne - came from Tetrad’s own archive, dating back to 1968, and also international influences.

Janus Cooper said: “Our in-house design team have worked to create this mid-century look which is very evocative of the styles and colours from a classic period of fashion and design”.

Tetrad employ more than 200 people in Preston and all their furniture is hand-made using traditional skills and, as far as possible, British components. Their products are sold through John Lewis, Laura Ashley and France’s Roche Bobois as well as leading independent furniture retailers.

Former UK Trade Minister, Brian Wilson, who chairs Harris Tweed Hebrides, said: “This is a great story of two companies operating in sectors which have experienced a lot of contraction, coming together to produce a flagship partnership for British manufacturing.

“It is the kind of synergy which sends out strong messages about skills which are very much alive in this country and the demand that exists for quality, craft-based products.”