From Harris to Paris: Scots designer brings Tweed back to the catwalk

HARRIS Tweed is to make a major return to the international fashion scene next month as part of top Scots clothes designer Deryck Walker's Paris show.

The iconic fabric is to form the centrepiece of his autumn/winter men's collection, which will be shown next month.

It will be the first serious use of the cloth by a high-profile designer since John Galliano during the 1990s.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Walker, who was named Scottish Designer of the Year last month, said he had been a long-time devotee of the fabric: "When I was younger, my passion was Vivienne Westwood. I was well known for sporting her Harris Tweed armour jacket and crown. So it's amazing it's come full circle, and I'm now designing and sporting my own."

The 32-year-old's incorporation of Harris Tweed in his Paris Fashion Week show also represents the fabric's return to wider use after the mills that finish the cloth were sold in 2006, resulting in a vast reduction in the availability of Harris Tweed to designers. By a unique law, Harris Tweed can only be produced in the Outer Hebrides by weavers working in their own homes.

The change in production and distribution following the sale meant the tweed's range was narrowed to just four designs, all of which were produced and sold only as hunting jackets through one company, Kenneth Mackenzie group.

Fashion houses that had previously used the fabric were left for months without supplies.

Worried locals and businessmen intervened, and the one remaining mill was bought to re-establish wider production by setting up the Harris Tweed Hebrides company.

Chairman of the company, Brian Wilson, a former MP and minister, who helped to establish the business, said: "The narrowing of production and attendant job losses had caused serious concerns in Stornoway."

Mr Wilson said the change in supply had been in danger of irretrievably damaging the fabric's standing in fashion.

"All the people had been told six months before 'You'll never get Harris Tweed again', so it was our job to start telling them that they would be able to," he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Walker said he had jumped at the chance to use the new fabric:

"It's the heritage of the cloth. It's beautiful, there's so much to offer with it in terms of colour and that's what I've put into it, but there's a whole history behind it and I've become quite passionate about it. It's part of our culture and heritage, and if you get a chance to save a bit of that, then you have to take it."


IT is one of the most famous fabrics in the world and the only one to have its very own Act of Parliament.

After years of battling against cheap copies, in 1993 the government set up the Harris Tweed Authority with an Act of Parliament.

Before that, the famous Orb trade-mark, which has existed since 1909, and the criteria used to create Harris Tweed were jealously guarded.

To qualify, weavers must be based in the Outer Hebrides, work in their own home and use pure virgin wool. Each thread is hand-linked to the loom, which is pedalled by the weaver with no external power source.

The fabric is one of the of the great surviving craft industries, and as a result single garments can cost hundreds of pounds.

Related topics: