Strong year for Harris Tweed predicted

Parisian Boutique head designer Patric Hollington with his autumn/winter look.
Parisian Boutique head designer Patric Hollington with his autumn/winter look.

Shawbost-based Harris Tweed Hebrides, who account for almost 90% of Orb-stamped production, this week predicted “another strong year” for the fabric, based on early ordering and continuing global interest.

Chief executive Ian Angus MacKenzie said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the progress of 2012 would be maintained. “We are a little bit ahead of where we were this time last year on orders and the sampling has been excellent,” he said.

“You can never be sure until the actual orders come in but at the moment it looks encouraging. We have a good match now between demand and weaving capacity so that is what we will be trying to maintain throughout the year.”

Mr MacKenzie visited Japan recently and said that demand from the company’s biggest market remains strong. “I saw a vast range of really excellent products which included very little of traditional Harris Tweed jackets. One of our big strengths now is in the greater diversity of uses.”

That point was reinforced by Harris Tweed Hebrides chairman, Brian Wilson and creative director Mark Hogarth who are just back from Pitti Uomo in Florence – the world’s foremost show for displaying mainly menswear collections to potential buyers.

Mr Wilson commented: “We saw a huge range of great products which have been made up from samples supplied from Shawbost over the past few months. All the response was extremely positive and there was confidence that the collections will sell well.

“We had not previously gone to a garment show of this kind but it was a great opportunity to meet existing end-users of Harris Tweed and to get advance notice of how they are using it for the coming season. Everyone commented on the quality of the samples which is a tribute to the weavers and everyone at the Shawbost mill.”

The show, which lasted for four days, indicates the trends and styles that will hit the boutiques and department stores later in the year. With an army of journalists and bloggers in attendance, it is a key event in the fashion calendar and the exhibitors and over 20,000 buyers come from all over the world.

Mark Hogarth commented that all the feed-back had been positive. “We are very fortunate to work with designers who have so much pride in what they do and a genuine love for our fabric,” he said. “Bright colours are more apparent for next season and nobody can do colour quite like Harris Tweed.”