Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Monday, 13 October 2008 12:54 UK

Hopes of sun rising on new orders

Fashion conscious Japan has favoured Harris Tweed in the past

Management at the Shawbost Harris Tweed mill on Lewis have expressed optimism in winning orders from the potentially lucrative Japanese market.

Representatives from the mill's owners, Harris Tweed Hebrides, have had strong expressions of interest from Japanese buyers.

They said they were trying to convert that into firm orders.

Company director Alasdair Morrison said the cloth had an enduring attraction and was previously popular in Japan.

He said: "Japan was formerly a place where business was done.

"We are in the fortunate position that Harris Tweed is a product that enjoys a fantastic and phenomenal reputation."

Mr Morrison said with proper targeting and marketing, fresh orders from Japan could be secured.

In autumn 2007 the moth-balled Shawbost mill was reopened by the new company, Harris Tweed Hebrides.

This was backed by businessman Ian R Taylor, who is chief executive of oil and gas traders Vitoil, former trade minister Brian Wilson and former islands MSP Mr Morrison.

In December 2007, the Shawbost mill was grant-aided to the tune of 200,000 by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, while Carloway tweed mill owned by Harris Tweed Textiles Manufacturing Ltd was given 100,000.

Fashion and furniture using Harris Tweed. Pic: Harris Tweed Textiles
The mills on the Western Isles provide wool to self-employed weavers on Harris and Lewis who produce the cloth on foot-driven looms in, or near, their homes
The woven cloth is then sent back to mills for finishing
Local MSPs have sought a Scottish Government financed fund to be set up to help weavers through quiet periods

The Shawbost mill's bid to secure Japanese orders came at what is traditionally a quiet period for the industry.

Last week, it was reported workers at Harris Tweed's largest mill were to be put on a three day week.

Almost half the workforce at the Kenneth MacKenzie mill in Stornoway on Lewis lost their jobs four months ago.

Most of the remaining workers - numbering about 40 - were asked to work from Monday to Wednesday.

It was understood the mill's owner, businessman Brian Haggas, had told staff the arrangement would be reviewed in January.

Meanwhile, Western Isles Nationalist MSP Alasdair Allan said he was continuing to press for an investment fund to stabilise the traditional peaks and troughs in demand in the industry.

The islands' SNP MP, Angus MacNeil, previously said this would keep weavers working at the quieter tail-end of the year.

Call for new fund to help weavers
16 Sep 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Assurances given to Tweed buyers
14 Jun 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Harris Tweed mill ends production
09 Jun 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Tweed mill to increase workforce
02 May 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Job cuts at Harris Tweed company
30 Apr 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Mill boss in tweed campaign call
13 Jul 07 |  Highlands and Islands
German Harris Tweed order back on
12 Jul 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Tweed order from Germany refused
06 Jul 07 |  Highlands and Islands


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