Highlands & Islands

Harris Tweed Hebrides goes latino

Harris tweed hat
Image caption At London Fashion Week last month, Harris Tweed made an appearance on several catwalks

The biggest producer of Harris Tweed is heading to Brazil this weekend hoping to break its fashion industry.

It is part of Harris Tweed Hebrides's new marketing strategy to target the world's fastest growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Creative director Mark Hogarth said a light weight jacket could be suitable for Sao Paulo's winter evenings.

But he conceded Rio de Janeiro on the Brazilian coast might be too hot for the woven cloth.

Mr Hogarth said he would like the fabric to become as established in Brazil as Italian designers have in Russia.

"Brands like Gucci and Versace went into post-Soviet Russia and established themselves.

"They are an integral part of that society still. That was the "bling" culture. It is the second generation of nouveau bourgeoisie that we hope to attract to Harris Tweed." he said.

Harris Tweed Hebrides has led a renaissance in the industry. It is now producing 30% more tweed than when it was founded three years ago. Its expansion has been built on a marketing strategy which is successfully shifting Harris Tweed's image away from the 'Miss Marple' look, towards high fashion icons such as Kate Moss.

Image caption The company is also looking to develop Harris Tweed as an interiors product.

At London Fashion Week last month, Harris Tweed made an appearance on several catwalks. British designers such as Henry Holland and Philip Start have embraced the fabric in their autumn-winter collections.

Patterns and designs

Mark Hogarth said he hoped Brazil's fashion industry would be equally impressed.

"Brazil is a very interesting market. We don't know 100% what to expect. It has a more advanced sense of fashion, design and style than the other BRIC countries. Accessories, I think, will be an important market for us there as well as apparel, jackets."

"When you think of Brazil you don't automatically think of Harris Tweed, but in Sao Paulo, temperatures in their winter get down to 10C or 12C and we have a light-weight Harris Tweed jacket which would suit those temperatures", he said.

Harris Tweed has traditionally been a seasonal fabric, but winning more sales abroad would help reduce that seasonally.

Mark Hogarth said: "We want to make Harris Tweed applicable in every season. We don't want to become monolithic, so there's the possibly of new products in different weights and patterns."

"We hope that rather than Harris Tweed being in or out, Harris Tweed will be permanently in. It just depends on which colours, which patterns, which designs."

The company is also looking to develop Harris Tweed as an interiors product.

In the past year it secured the industry's biggest interiors order for 60 years, with a contract to furnish the recently opened Blythswood Square Hotel in Glasgow.

The hotel, the former RAC Club, is now a showcase to more than 8,000 metres of Harris Tweed in dozens of different patterns.

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