Consider Bespoke Harris Tweed for your Country Escape
When packing for your luxury country escape, you will naturally be packing your suitcase with that most steadfast of British essentials; your tweeds. Whether you are participating in a long-awaited shooting weekend, or simply enjoying all that the country has to offer, tweed clothing for a country escape is a time-honoured British tradition that is as refined as it is functional. Tweed has even been able to transcended its own reputation over the years and has extended its reach to include everyone and everything from the halls of academia to the street style stars that grace the blogosphere. Even in an industry as fickle as the fashion industry, tweed has been a constant companion. Coco Chanel herself fell in love with tweed after forming a relationship with the Duke of Westminster in 1924, where they spent a majority of their time at the Duke’s 123,000-acre estate in the Sutherland region of the Scottish Highlands. The influence this relationship had on Chanel’s design ethos has been evident in the designs of the house of Chanel ever since and is still going strong.
Yet for many of us, our trusty tweeds are our wardrobe equivalent of an old friend, and they have done some serious miles at our sides over the years. When you consider all of the journeys your tweeds have made packed into travel trunks and traipsing the countryside in all manners of weather, it is no surprise that the wear and tear may have started to take its toll. Quite often in the lifespan of tweeds, when it comes time to bring them out for the season, you find that upon inspection, what once you might have been able to pass-off as a look that is broken-in and “well-loved”, is starting to look a little more like something that the dogs might pick up on one of your shoots. As weatherproof and as enduring as tweed is, a keen outdoors person who wears their tweeds quite heavily year after year may find themselves in a pickle at the beginning of the season upon making such a discovery.
If this sounds at all familiar to you, this year might finally be the time to look ahead and consider an investment in a set of bespoke tweeds with fabric created by none other than that most British of all textile companies, Harris Tweed. Crafted by artisans in the Outer Hebrides Islands, Harris Tweed is steeped in history, and is created much in the same way today as it was when Lady Dunmore began outfitting the local clans in hand-loomed Harris Tweed back in 1846. By the early 1900s, Harris Tweed was in high demand within the upper echelons of society, and new mills were being built and old ones expanded to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the orders. Realising that they had a unique quality product, the people at Harris Tweed convened a special meeting in 1906 to make an official inspection system for Harris Tweed, thereby granting the seal of the Harris Tweed Orb and Maltese Cross to all of their textiles that passed this inspection process. This stamp is the very one that is still used today, and has become an enduring emblem of the steadfast commitment Harris Tweed has made to quality, workmanship, and above all, heritage. This national heritage was further consolidated in 1993 with the creation of the Harris Tweed Authority, which in an unprecedented act, was made into statutory law by an act of parliament.
The process begins just in the way that you might imagine; with a sheep. In the summertime, the local islanders join forces to shear the local sheep, adding the pure virgin wool to that which is sourced from the Scottish mainland. The wool then arrives at the factory, where it is washed, and dyed. All dyed and un-dyed wool is measured and blended to a standardised and exacting recipe, and then teased with spiked rollers (a process called carding). It is this process from which the storied hues of Harris Tweed arise.
What is perhaps the most endearing aspect of the creation of Harris Tweed is the actual weaving of the tartan cloth itself. Each and every bolt of Harris Tweed is hand woven on a treadle loom. Each individual loom is located in the home of the individual artisan weaver. This is an aspect of the creation of Harris Tweed that lends a very personal touch to the process that you simply cannot find anywhere else in the world. It is this personal touch that you can carry through to your closet with a set of bespoke Harris Tweeds. It’s fairly easy to find retailers who deal in small bespoke orders of Harris Tweed. A look at the official Harris Tweed Authority website will direct you to several such retailers. If you are working with your personal tailor, you will be able to provide information to the retailer as to exactly how much fabric you will need to complete the look you want, as well as the exact specifications for how your tailor would like the pieces cut. Most Harris Tweeds are between 75 and 78 cm wide, with the lengths being cut to meet the customer’s specific requirements.
Although there are retailers all over the UK who deal in well-made Harris Tweed garments created specifically for shooting weekends or country manor retreats, these garments will not have the personality, nor the fit of a set of bespoke tweeds. When you take the time to work with a skilled tailor and create your own set of tweeds in a fabric that has been lovingly selected by your own hand, measured-to-fit, and affixed with personal touches such as monograms, linings, subtle family crests, or hand-selected buttons…these are the touches that make a well-cut garment into a work of art. With the right care, your bespoke Harris Tweeds may very well last indefinitely, perhaps even to be handed down to the next generation.