The success of Harris Tweed Hebrides depends on three “p’s” – prestige, production and profile.

In other words, we start with the great inheritance of the Harris Tweed brand and the respect it is held in around the world. Then we rely on a top-class team of management, mill-workers and weavers to create the product to the highest possible standards.

Profile is the least tangible of the three but no less critical to maintaining a long-term sustainable industry. It is the one that was sometimes neglected in the past.

 As with any product, the public at home and abroad has to be reminded with great regularity about Harris Tweed and the reasons for its prestige. In other words, we need to keep coming up with good stories and collaborations which will reinforce the narrative.

Our latest effort on this front was to achieve the status of official supplier to the Ryder Cup (Junior team pictured in HTH fabric - photo courtesy of Getty Images -), the third biggest sporting event in the world. Thumbing through the programme for the event, I see adverts for a few of the world’s most prestigious brands – Rolex, Johnnie Walker, BMW and Harris Tweed Hebrides. That’s where we want to be.

This particular outcome has been two years in the making since Mark Hogarth first made contact with the relevant people in the European Tour which is responsible for organisation of the event. They warmed to the idea of a Ryder Cup Harris Tweed and it has turned out to be a huge success, at every level.

At the opening concert in Glasgow’s Hydro, an international audience of 12,000 people saw a short film on a huge screen about Scotland and golf. A substantial chunk of it was devoted to Hebridean landscapes, the Harris Tweed process and the Shawbost mill. That’s what we mean by profile.

In the Ryder Cup Village at Gleneagles, the range of products created in partnership with the excellent Edinburgh retailer, Walker Slater, flew off the shelves and, by common consent, the collection offered the highest quality items on sale as keepsakes of this great sporting occasion. The collection will continue to be available on the Walker Slater web-site and arrive soon in our Stornoway store.

The past month has also seen the most important annual event at the sharp end of the business – Premiere Vision in Paris. This is the trade show which the whole Harris Tweed calendar revolves around with old customers and new coming from all over the world to discuss needs, order samples and thus set the whole cycle in motion once again.

All the signs were extremely encouraging. We had a five-strong team in Paris – Ian Angus Mackenzie, Roddy Martin, Gwen Crossley, Margaret MacLeod and Mark Hogarth. Over the three days, they were extremely busy and since then the whole team at home has been working flat out to respond to sample orders.

For the first time, the Harris Tweed Authority held a reception at Premiere Vision which created an opportunity to meet clients and others with an interest in the industry in a more informal setting. Some of the magnificent photography produced by Ian Lawson was also on display.

Premiere Vision took place in the week of the Scottish independence referendum and I was just glad to get out of the country for the last few days. As a company, we could see many risks if there had been a vote in favour of independence. Harris Tweed benefits from all its identities in the market place – quality, provenance, Hebridean, Scottish, British – and we don’t want to lose any of them.

Possibly our greatest satisfaction over the past seven years, since Ian Angus opened the rusty lock on a disused mill, has been to largely overcome the seasonality of the industry. It was always wrong that mill-workers were ritually laid off for large parts of the year and that weavers were so reliant on fluctuating conditions.

Now we have found a level that can be maintained all year round and that is the way we want to keep it – no booms, no busts. Let’s keep it that way!


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