The main producer of Harris Tweed has made 12 people redundant.
Former UK Trade Minster Brian Wilson, who is chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides (HTH), blamed the job losses on the decline in the numbers of foreign tourists during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The jobs losses are all among mill workers, leaving a workforce of around 60 at the Shawbost mill on the Isle of Lewis.
It is the first time since the company’s inception in 2000 that HTH has been forced to lay off staff.
Mr Wilson said: “It is a sad reflection on the market reality.
“Our story has been one of expansion that has taken seasonality out of the industry.
“But foreign tourism has virtually disappeared and that sector was among our biggest customers. We have fulfilled all of our orders and kept as many weavers in work as possible. But at the moment the market is just not there.”
HTH is not the only producer of the Clo Mor – meaning “big cloth” in Gaelic – that has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Harris Tweed has plenty celebrity followers of fashion, including Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vivienne Westwod and former Dr Who Matt Smith.
It is also loved by Royals.
HTH has enjoyed demand from the luxury end of the market with past customers including Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana and Ermenegildo Zegna.
Only Harris Tweed cloth, hand woven by the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra in their own homes, using pure virgin wool that has been dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides can be stamped with the coveted Orb mark – making it the world’s only commercially produced hand woven tweed.
The industry was born in 1846, when Lady Dunmore, widow of the late Earl of Dunmore, had the Murray tartan copied by Harris weavers in tweed. She then devoted much of her time to marketing the tweed to her friends.
A weaver and craft worker based in the islands recently hit the headlines after she was inundated with orders from around the world on the launch of her colourful range of masks hand-made from Harris Tweed.
Nikki Crabtree is stitching around the clock to meet the demand as people prepare to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown.
She has had orders from customers in countries including the US, Japan, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands as well as from around the UK.
Ms Crabtree has been weaving for the main producer of the fabric, Harris Tweed Hebrides, since 2010, working on a loom at her home at Upper Coll, on Lewis.
Trading as the Crafty Weaver, she also makes a range of products from the material, which she sells locally and through e-commerce site Etsy.
She turned her attention to making face masks when the lockdown started and the demand for tweeds dropped.
The masks were given the blessing of the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA), the guardian of the cloth’s famous orb trademark.