Harris Tweed History

Harris Tweed Mill

Harris Tweed History

Harris Tweed is an iconic fabric associated with British fashion. It has a long and rich history that dates back to the 1800s, when it was created by hand using traditional weaving techniques in the Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland.

For our Maccessori bags, we only ever use Genuine Harris Tweed, that comes from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Not only is it a very special material, but it has a very interesting history.

We thought we’d share a little bit of the Harris Tweed history with you, along with a little bit of our own Maccessori history too.

The Beginnings of Harris Tweed Fabric

Harris Tweed began its journey as a traditional fabric of the Hebridean islands. It was created in the early 1800s, when handweavers on the isles used local wool and vegetable dyes to produce a unique cloth that was later known as ‘Harris Tweed’. This traditional craft flourished over the years and became known for its quality and durability.

The Growth of the Harris Tweed Industry in Outer Hebrides

In 1845, the industry started to formalise when Lady Catherine Murray of the Isle of Harris commissioned the islanders to produce tweed for her estate. This allowed the sale of Harris Tweed direct from the weavers on a larger scale and resulted in a commercial boom for the islands. Production increased so much that by 1893, there were over 1000 handweavers employed in the Harris Tweed production process. Today, this number has reduced but despite this, small handweavers still exist who are committed to following traditional methods and producing one-of-a-kind items for customers.

How the Harris Tweed Act of 1993 Protected Its Reputation

The Harris Tweed Act of 1993 is an important legal protection which ensures that Genuine Harris Tweed is kept to a high standard. This Act puts in place rules and regulations which define, protect and guarantee the standard of Genuine Harris Tweed. These regulations include a definition for what constitutes authentic Harris Tweed, guidelines for the production process, labelling requirements and intellectual property rights such as trademarks and copyright. In addition to this, a series of international agreements ensure that only fabric made from the islands in the Outer Hebrides can be branded as ‘Harris Tweed’.

Key Dates in the History of Harris Tweed

  1. 1834: Harris Estate sold to the 4th Earl of Dunmore by Macleod.
  2. 1844: First recorded order for Murray Tartan Harris Tweed. Paisley sisters of Pabbay/Strond. Lady Dunmore began to ‘market’ Harris Tweed.
  3. 1906: Mr Henry Lyons imprisoned for two months for fraud. The crime: ‘Passing off’ of the genuine article by unscrupulous manufacturers – ‘Peasants of OH (Outer Hebrides)’  32/6 jacket.
  4. 1909: Harris Tweed Association formed and application made for Orb certification mark.
  5. 1910: Trade Mark granted and Orb used in 1911. Kenneth Mackenzie Mill (still open today) opened in Lewis Street.
  6. 1934: Revised definition of Harris Tweed, confining all production to the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
  7. 1964: Lord Hunter ruled that the terms of the 1934 definition must be observed.
  8. 1993: Passing of the Harris Tweed Act of Parliament and Harris Tweed Authority created.

Source: Harris Tweed Authority

Maccessori History

Now, for a little bit of Maccessori History:

  1. 2009: Blair’s (our founder) Mum bought a few metres of Harris Tweed to make cushions, with some left over she made a Harris Tweed iPhone sleeve for my Dad’s phone. The very first Maccessori.
  2. 2011: Established as a company in January 2011 and launched a range of bags and small accessories to accompany our iPhone Sleeves.
  3. 2013: Identified by Business Gateway as a high growth company and put on the business gateway growth pipeline. We were taken on trade missions to China, New York and the UAE to present our products to some of the biggest buyers in the world.
  4. 2014: We won the license to produce Tweed and Tartan bags and accessories for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
  5. 2017: Introduced our Private Label capability allowing us to work with some of the biggest companies in Scotland and around the world. Using our designs and experience to launch products for companies including Outlander, Hendricks, Glenfiddich, Bowmore, Moss Bros and many more.
  6. 2019: We launched our Tartans by Maccessori collection. We also started to explore our B2C journey.
  7. 2022: We are now selling our Harris Tweed and tartan products around the UK and in over 10 different countries worldwide including USA, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, France.
Harris Tweed fabric

History of Tweed

Now, although we only use Genuine Harris Tweed from the Outer Hebrides in our bags, there are a number of other different types of Tweed. Rydale have created an amazing infographic that shows the history of Tweed.