Between wearing tweed ties while grilling chicken thighs or rescuing thrift-store brogues, James Fox runs the brilliant family, food, literature and vintage shopping blog 10engines. Right now, though, he's sharing his considerable style acumen with us.
The vast majority of all Harris Tweed is produced from the yarns spun at Harris Tweed-Hebrides' Shawbost mill on Scotland's Isle of Lewis. On top of creating some of the rareist, most sought-after textiles in the world, the company also sells its own clothing and a line of home furnishings. and Mark Hogarth, creative director of Harris Tweet-Hebrides, shared his thoughts on how Japan saved the Scottish brand, where it fits into fashion, and how they're planning for the future.
Would you say the Japanese kept Harris tweed afloat?
Mark Hogarth: Undoubtedly. Irrespective of actual order volume, when lighter, cheaper, and often synthetic fabrics seduced U.S. and European markets, the Japanese desire for the integrity of the product we offered remained.
Where does Harris tweed fit into the fashion landscape?
Mark Hogarth: In the literal sense, I don't see it as a fashion item. Oscar Wilde said, "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." I agree. Harris Tweed has no element of planned obsolescence. We see ourselves as the brand behind the brands. There's a near mystical relationship between Harris Tweed and the Hebridean land and its people. It is integral to Hebridean history, and its roller-coaster story reaches far beyond a basic industry or what's "in" this season.
So how are you taking advantage of Harris Tweed's current "in" status to prepare the company for the future?
Mark Hogarth: Right now, demand is out-stripping supply—but we're determined to make Harris Tweed a style staple, not just a fad. Currently, we're closing the physical and emotional distance between the mill and the markets. We're being very proactive both in seeking out new markets and reinvigorating traditional ones and, of course, we always stay true to our core value: producing a unique, handwoven product.
—By James Fox