By Eilidh Whiteford
Lewis-based designer Paulette Brough is returning to her roots as her Harris Tweed accessories company Rarebird introduces its first range of jackets, waistcoats and skirts this year.
Named after the elusive Corncrake – the small island bird often heard but rarely seen – Rarebird was established by Paulette in 2007 at her small cottage in Ness before opening a Carloway workshop in 2009, and an additional workshop and studio outlet at 1 Bells Road Stornoway in 2016.
Concentrating on handmade quality and clean designs, Paulette’s Harris Tweed accessories – scarves, gloves, hats, bags and more – have found homes the world over with Rarebird products sold in over 50 shops and galleries across Scotland, England and Wales and several outlets in the EU, USA and Japan.
Rarebird products are available in the British Museum in London, as well as from the National Trust of Scotland who also asked Paulette to make several of her designs in their own NTS tweed.
Working with Harris Tweed is the fulfilment of a dream for Margaret Rowan of Adabrock Weaving Company.
She arrived in the Outer Hebrides to become a Harris Tweed weaver in January 2015. She explains how she felt that she had already done a lot - raised two wonderful sons, taught textiles, written four sewing books and run a flourishing Soft Furnishings business for 25 years – but she knew inside there was something else she needed to do.
“My lifelong love of fabric and yarn, my artistic and creative abilities, art school, studying woven textiles and printmaking were all for a reason.
“The year before I moved to the Outer Hebrides my father mentioned that he had discovered my grandmother was a silk weaver in Paisley.
“Could I have inherited her genes? Are there weavers’ genes…or was it fate?
By Brian Wilson
Each September, the textiles world assembles in Paris to display its wares. The show is called Première Vision and it is a vital cog round which the Harris Tweed orb has long revolved.
Collections are displayed, old friendships renewed, new customers introduced, sample orders taken and off the whole cycle goes for another year.
The show is located at the vast exhibition park close to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Harris Tweed Hebrides takes a stand at Première Vision each year and our sales team work overtime for three intensive days with precious little opportunity to enjoy the delights that Paris has to offer. The old hands can get a good feel for the season ahead from the response at Premiere Vision.
Picture by Jane H Macmillan
There’s a special Harris Tweed exhibition in the village of Drinishader in Harris; where once the village school played host to hundreds of pupils, it now has a display detailing the life and tweeds of the legendary Marion Campbell.
Born in 1909, Marion is remembered as an icon of Harris Tweed weaving. She first sat at a loom aged 14. Before turning 21, she had won a Harris Tweed Association design competition, beating off older, more experienced weavers to pick up first prize and a handsome reward of 20 guineas.
What made Marion’s tweeds so special was the fact that she oversaw and conducted the entire process herself, from raising the sheep that provided the wool, spinning and dyeing the yarn for her loom, right through to the finished tweed length. The one thing that was outwith her personal control was the stamping of her tweeds with the world-famous Orb Mark. This was done by the Harris Tweed Association inspector.
We have friends all over Europe…that could be the motto for the Harris Tweed industry and for the largest producer, Harris Tweed Hebrides in Shawbost in particular.
In April this year the company featured in a glittering showcase of British and Italian fashion, held in Florence under royal patronage.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall toured the event, which was organised by the British Embassy in Rome and the Campaign for Wool. Prince Charles is patron of the campaign and all the garments featured were, like Harris Tweed, made from pure wool.
An elite selection of leading British and Italian brands were invited to exhibit at the event, which was held in the Sala Bianca of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, described as 'the birthplace of Italian fashion', catwalk shows held there in the 1950s having set the tone for classic Italian brands to flourish.