To Russia with Tweed - Lewis companies join Moscow mission

Two Lewis-based companies are taking aim at the huge Russian market by participating this week in a trade mission to Moscow and St Petersburg alongside other top Scottish textiles firms.

Shawbost-based Harris Tweed Hebrides and Breanish Tweed, who are located in Ness, are part of a major mission, organised by Scottish Development International, which is aimed specifically at the interiors sector, where there is strong demand from wealthy Russians for international fabrics.

Speaking from Moscow, HTH chairman Brian Wilson said: “This is a huge market but also a challenging one to get into. There is not the same name recognition for Harris Tweed as you would find elsewhere, so we need to get the story across based on both quality and tradition.

“At present, the Shawbost mill and the weavers are working to capacity and our aim is to ensure that this is sustained year-round, every year. One obvious way to help achieve this is to do a bit more in interiors, where Harris Tweed Hebrides has an existing track record, notably through the Blythswood Square project”.

As part of their marketing strategy this year, Harris Tweed Hebrides have targeted the BRIC countries of rapid economic growth - Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Creative director Mark Hogarth said: “It will take time to establish ourselves in all these markets but on any long-term view, it makes sense to lay the foundations now while everything is going so well in our existing areas of strength”.

Iain Finlay MacLeod, managing director of Breanish Tweed, said: “Scottish textiles have a well deserved reputation around the world so it is fantastic for us to be presenting our tweed beside companies like Harris Tweed Hebrides, Begg Scotland and Timorous Beasties.

“The most striking thing is the positive image the islands have world-wide and how people are instantly attracted by the images and by the skill used in handweaving. As customers in market such as Russia become more sophisticated in their tastes, undoubtedly cloths which have such a strong history and heritage will come to the fore”.

Other companies taking part in the mission include Johnston of Elgin, Holland & Sherry and Bute Fabrics. Harris Tweed Hebrides have been shortlisted as Scottish Textile Brand of the Year in the Scottish Fashion Awards, to be held later this month.