It is a fabric steeped in the oldest traditions of the island way of life.
But now, Harris Tweed is making an appearance in the continental world of high fashion.
Harris Tweed Hebrides company has teamed up with one of Europe’s leading fashion and design schools to ensure that a new generation of the industry’s future leaders are ambassadors for the iconic fabric.
A relationship with the Institute of the Applied Arts in Vienna is part of the award-winning company’s wider campaign to boost sales in Europe’s leading fashion markets including Italy, France and Spain.
Visting Professors at the institute have included Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood and Jill Sander.
Over the next two weeks, Harris Tweed Hebrides will also be involved in major promotional events in Madrid and Paris. The European initiative was boosted when the Italian super-brand Prada included four Harris Tweed “looks” in their main Autumn Winter 2017 collection.
The Vienna design school draws elite students from all over Europe and is presided over by the highly-regarded British-Cypriot designer Hussein Chalayan while alumni include Andreas Kronthaler, creative director at Vivienne Westwood.
Final year design students will be supplied with fabric from the Shawbost mill to use in their graduate collections and the partnership will culminate in a grand fashion show in June. It is hoped that a long-term relationship will then be maintained.
Harris Tweed Hebrides creative director Mark Hogarth said: “When we visited Vienna to explain Harris Tweed to the students, fewer than half of them had previously heard of it, but they were really enthused to learn of its qualities and provenance. That sums up the need for this kind of initiative.
“The students of today will be the creative leaders of tomorrow’s fashion industry. We are proud to invest in such talent and be associated with such a prestigious European institution.”
Course co-ordinator in Vienna, Claudia Reifberger, said: “We are very appreciative of the collaboration with Harris Tweed because our students now have the opportunity to turn high quality, handmade fabrics in outstanding colours and designs into their personal visions of contemporary fashion.”
Chief executive Ian Angus Mackenzie said: “As far as we are concerned, Brexit means that we need to put even more effort into European markets, to make clear that we place a very high value on future relationships. At a time of global uncertainties, Europe should be more important than ever to us.”