Harris Tweed Hebrides named as top Scottish exporter

Harris Tweed Hebrides was represented by chairman Brian Wilson, brand development director Margaret A. MacLeod and creative director, Mark Hogarth.

Harris Tweed Hebrides was represented by chairman Brian Wilson, brand development director Margaret A. MacLeod and creative director, Mark Hogarth.

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Shawbost-based Harris Tweed Hebrides has chalked up its latest accolade by being named Scotland’s SME Exporter of the Year at an awards ceremony in Glasgow.

The company sends fabric to more than 60 countries and around 75 per cent of the overall output is exported. Harris Tweed Hebrides now employs 90 people at Shawbost and provides work for over 120 home weavers.

Last Friday’s Scottish Export Awards, sponsored by the business magazine BQ and Scottish Enterprise, was held in Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel where Harris Tweed Hebrides was represented by chairman Brian Wilson, brand development director Margaret A. MacLeod and creative director, Mark Hogarth.

In its short history, Harris Tweed Hebrides has been named as UK Textile Company of the Year as well as being honoured on several occasions for its outstanding contribution to the Scottish fashion and textiles industries.

Brian Wilson said: “It is another tribute to the entire team that we have this recognition specifically for our contribution to exporting. Sending Harris Tweed to every corner of the world, from the west side of Lewis, is a remarkable logistical exercise which involves an immense input of experience, co-ordination and attention to detail”.

Shipping manager Alison Mackenzie said that there was no “one size fits all” solution for exports as many different markets and clients have their own requirements. “We use shippers in Glasgow, Manchester and Essex for onward distribution by air and sea, but some clients want to use their own shippers.

“It is all quite complicated and specialised. There are some countries which have particular issues with customs, taxes and form-filling. Our biggest market is Japan but I think the most difficult place to deal with is Turkey which has its own very particular requirements!”.

Chief executive Ian Angus Mackenzie said that the company – which produced its first tweed just seven years ago after re-opening the Shawbost mill - is heading for its busiest year so far, following a major surge of early orders. “The response from both mill workers and weavers has been superb ,” he added.

Last year, Harris Tweed Hebrides were official suppliers to both the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games while a collaboration with Johnnie Walker whisky attracted world-wide publicity. Harris Tweed from Shawbost has featured prominently in this year’s fashion collections from leading designers including Chanel, Ermenegildo Zegna and Lardini.