Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Tweed Fund

This post comes with a sarcasm alert.

Les asked about my opinion on the £300,000 fund for the Harris Tweed industry, set up by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. I should be pleased about this. Why do I think though about closing doors after horses have bolted? The largest producer of Harris Tweed is out of action for a year, so the entire production of the cloth will fall to the mills at Shawbost and Carloway. Whether they have the capacity to meet all that demand, I do not know. Training up new weavers? Commendable, but a wee bit on the late side. If not too late. Many weavers have already packed up, following downturn after downturn in the last number of years.

I am also supposed to be pleased about the fact that weavers who no longer have any weaving to do can now claim unemployment benefit. Yes, that is very good, because beforehand they could not. But if the Harris Tweed industry in Lewis and Harris had been managed with an industry-wide strategy, rather than the self-destruct policy of mindless competition, seen in recent years, weavers would not be sitting idle now.


  1. Sarcasm alert noted Arnish ... :- )

    May I ask a question ...? Who was it that signed (and profited from) the deal to sell the Syy mill to Haggas, and who was in charge of the marketing of Harris Tweed ...?

    If it was not the Comhairle, (and I truly don't know the answer, but would be surprised if it were), then it seems you're beating the Comhairle over the head with a club which was rightfully meant to cosh someone else ...?

    Maybe I could comment more when some kind person gives me the answer to my question ... :- )

  2. Soaplady,
    I am not bashing the Comhairle over the deal per-se. I am being globally scathing about the way the industry was handled over the years by all involved in it. I find it difficult to stomach to watch all manner of dignitaries, local, regional and national, falling over themselves to extend the helping hand - now that it is almost too late - whereas they should have intervened a good deal earlier.

    The Stornoway mill was owned by the KM Group before Haggas took it over.

    I recognise that it is not very constructive to look back in despair and go around saying 'if only'. If I am being constructive, which I don't find easy with regards to this subject, I will say that I hope that the measures that I am slating in my post will actually help to put the industry back on its feet.

  3. I guess I just wasn't sure exactly how much input the Comhairle was allowed to have in what is then essentially a privately-owned business ... :- )

    I'd certainly object to them sticking their fingers in mine ...
    But then mine isn't the main flagship for promotion of a very desirable (imho) locally-produced product, which was once popular worldwide ...

    Yes, I hope it will help what's left of the industry too ... What they need is a few 'movers and shakers' - people who *do* things, people who draw other people usefully together, and some modern marketing techniques ...

  4. I despair over the state of the Tweed Industry and it very much mirrors the state of the English Pottery and Irish glass industry.
    Mr Haggas seems to think the answer is manufacturing jackets in a handful of patterns for the geography teachers of the world and having looked at his offerings in branches of Edinburgh Woollen Mills under the Brooks Taverner banner I dont think he does the fabric any favours.
    Harris Tweed must act and behave like a £50 a metre fabric not a competitor with bottom end woollen products. It must be seen as a furnishing, upholstery, millinery as well as a clothing material and forge links with the elite in these fields. It needs to deal with the Theo Fennells of these worlds not the H Samuels.
    Furnishing and upholstery are good examples. The ferries have tweed upholstery and it is hardwearing and best of all orders for upholstery and curtains involve large meterages. 24 metres for the average 3 piece suite. My father has just had three suites recoivered by the best upholsterer in N Yorkshire who thought it a marvellous material to work with - he'll use it again. Why not open a Tweed franchise within Jenners or John Lewis then franchise out worldwide putting to good use all versatility of the orb stamp with a thought out strategy. There might even by room for the Harris Tweed Cashmere hybrids at an even higher price per metre for clothing. This approach would iron out the stop /start nature of the industry and take advantage of weak sterling prices throughout the world. Imagine a Harris Tweed outlet in the malls of Singapore and Hong Kong - local businessmen would kill for the opportunity to represent this flagship brand. So let's bring the days of £15 per metre to an end and sell to the people who look at the quality not the price.

  5. absolutely agree, Calum ...

    Also, just have to mention the lovely picture of a white harris tweed *wedding dress* I saw in the syy gazette some weeks ago - this is another splendid example ...

    I don't know how they worked with the tweed to make it drape so voluptuously - it didn't look bulky, or even 'tweedy' at all, and the design was worthy of some sort of award, certainly ...

    a bit of business nouse, coupled with a bit of real creativity goes a long way ...

  6. Soaplady, do you have a link to the picture of the tweed wedding dress?

  7. Sorry mjc, no ... The picture doesn't seem to be on the online website ...
    I knew I would regret not showing myself up by tearing the picture out and taking it away (was in company at the time, and the newspaper was not mine) ...

    It was truly spectacular though - if anyone else can help with an image, please do ...?!

  8. The BBC webpage link provided by Arnish is interesting. The first photo shows a nice leg, but dress is not otherwise original or flattering. The white wedding dress is remarkable - but somehow does not look "tweedy."

  9. Are you aware, MJC, that papal robes are / were made of Harris Tweed?

  10. I suppose its a sort of penance to wear itchy&scratchy robes:grin:like a former government minister's (alleged) barbed-wire garter...
    I love the grey garment, very stylish in a timeless sort of way and wearable with anything from opaque tights to jeans to silk pants.
    As for wedding dresses, they are the devil's invention to part fools from their money...

  11. No, I wasn't Arnish. Shows the Papacy has good taste. As to scratchiness FC2, perhaps the robes have purple silk lining. I would think the tweed would be rather hot in the Summer, but then there is airconditioning these days. I have given away my tweed jackets, mementos of my sojourn in the land of Whittard's tea (aye, and Tetley tea bags + Marvel powder milk): I bulked up and outgrew them.