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HIE supports development of Harris Tweed Hebrides

11 December 2015

A major expansion project is to be carried out by an award-winning Harris Tweed company.
Harris Tweed Hebrides, based in Shawbost on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis is being supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) with £300,000 towards its £1.8m development.

Investment from HIE will help support the upgrade and expansion of its facility to meet the increase in demand for its unique cloth which has seen an upsurge over the last couple of years. The project is expected to create up to ten new jobs at the mill.

Rachel Mackenzie, HIE area manager in the Outer Hebrides, said: “Harris Tweed Hebrides has provided a significant number of opportunities for young people to get involved in an industry with long term career prospects. We are delighted to invest in the company’s latest venture which will see many more new jobs created as a result of expanding production space and exporting in new international markets where demand for the fabric is rising.

“Communities across Lewis and Harris also benefit from a strong Harris Tweed industry with tourism, creative industries and food and drink sharing the opportunities for growth that emerge from the vibrant sector.”

This particular project is part of HIE’s wider support for the Harris Tweed industry across the islands, including funding to the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) for new looms and a training programme to ensure the traditional skills are maintained.

Harris Tweed Hebrides chief executive, Ian Angus Mackenzie, said: “Over the past eight years, we have built a successful and profitable company, committed to continuous investment in its own future. HIE's support will enhance the overall level of investment available and will underpin our objective of a sustainable industry providing high quality employment to islanders and an iconic product to the world.”
Founded in 2007, Harris Tweed Hebrides, has played a key role in transforming the industry’s prospects and has taken the famous fabric into the front-line of international fashion and design.

Harris Tweed Hebrides currently employs 82 people and also provides employment for more than 130 self-employed weavers whose skills are fundamental to the Harris Tweed process. The company exports to more than 60 countries and customers include Chanel, YSL, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood.

Employees from Harris Tweed Hebrides are currently working hard to fulfil customers’ orders from the recent Première Vision – the biggest global trade show for the fashion and textiles industry, held in Paris. The show enabled the company to meet existing customers from around the world, particularly Japan, Germany and the UK. They met a number of new customers from Korea, France and the USA.

Harris Tweed Hebrides was named Textile Brand of the Year 2009 at the Scottish Fashion Awards and again in 2011. The skilled artisans throughout the company represent generations of experience in this craft industry. In 2013 the company was named UKFT Textile Brand of the Year and UK Manufacturer of the Year. The company was also named Scottish Ambassador of the year 2013, at the recent Scottish Fashion awards.

Notes to editors

  • Each Harris Tweed mill carries out the dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, warping and finishing tasks with their teams of skilled staff and workers and work closely with the weavers to bring Harris Tweed to market.
  • Perhaps the most crucial part of the Harris Tweed process, weavers are the skilled artisans that turn the woollen yarn into the big cloth that becomes Harris Tweed.
  • Skills are passed on from generation to generation, old to young, through formal and informal training, the skills taking months to transfer and many years to master.
  • Weavers can work in partnership with the mills to meet a multitude of challenging orders for international markets or independently on custom and bespoke commissions for private clients.
  • A number of weavers now work solely on their own allowing small, unusual and personalised patterns to be produced to very specific customer demands.
  • The Harris Tweed Authority is established by an Act of Parliament which ensures the Harris Tweed brand is protected worldwide, via the Orb mark. To preserve its authenticity, Harris Tweed must be hand woven by the islanders in their homes in the Outer Hebrides with cloth made from pure virgin wool which is spun, dyed and processed in the islands.

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