On a pre-Christmas jolly to Edinburgh I determined to buy a wool tartan scarf, because tartan is gorgeous and my puritanical mind decided that only tartan purchased in Scotland itself would do. While lasciviously fingering the cashmere in a shop on the Royal Mile, improbably named “Thistle Do Nicely”, and wondering how much of my holiday budget to blow I spotted a modest display of tweed clutch bags hiding at the back of the shop. Specifically Harris Tweed clutch bags, which (temporarily) put all thoughts of tartan out of my mind.
What other fabric can successfully unite disparate fashion factions more effectively than Harris Tweed? From my father, the epitome of University physics Professor (emeritus) in a brown scratchy jacket, to the runway creations of clothing industry giants Paul Smith, Margaret Howell and Celine; they all share a common interest in this hairy piece of Hebridean heritage. The Harris Tweed brand is protected by an act or Parliament, dictating where and how the cloth can be manufactured, and which techniques can be used.
Today all Harris Tweed is still woven on treadle looms in the homes of weavers living in the Outer Hebrides, as it has been for centuries. The resulting product is, to my eyes at least, astonishingly beautiful. This charcoal coloured tweed can appear plain at first glance, but further inspection reveals flashes of vivid blue, green and even a speck of purple. Examining this fabric up close reveals the incredible artistry of the weaver in constructing the pattern of colours.
All this I explained to Chris with my nose pressed up against one of the bags to better see the colour patterns, all the while cooing like a deranged pigeon. I get terribly excited about beautiful design and fashion history. Speaking of which, payday finally came and I finally got to purchase the Charlie May SS14 brogues that I’ve been lusting after since they first appeared on the catwalk last autumn. So watch this space for more fashion rhapsodising!