The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, has praised the “unique quality and community values” of Harris Tweed, while officially opening a major extension to the Harris Tweed Hebrides mill at Shawbost.
She expressed the hope that many of the people who bought products made from the fabric had an awareness of the skills that go into its production, including those of the home weavers on whom the industry depends.
After touring the mill, in her role as President of the UK Fashion and Textiles Association, the Princess Royal praised the new £2.4 million blending and dyehouse facilities as “an investment for the next generation”.
The company’s chairman, Brian Wilson, said that the industry depended on “unique protection and a unique structure”. In return, its custodians owed an obligation to the islands to pass it on in robust health, which the latest investment would help to ensure.
He said it was sometimes assumed that investment in peripheral places was dependent on public funds but that 90 per cent of the latest investment had come from the company’s own resources.
“It is possible to be both peripheral and successful, which is an important lesson”, he said.
The Princess Royal spoke to mill staff, weavers and customers during a tour and at the subsequent reception. She was presented with a length of tweed in the special design of the Scottish Rugby Union of which she is patron.