Page last updated at 01:15 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

New York show for troubled cloth

Judy R Clark designed dress
A dress using Harris Tweed designed by Judy R Clark

Fashion clothing featuring Harris Tweed is to be modelled on a catwalk at the Dressed for Kilt show in New York City.

Sir Sean Connery will host Monday's event, with tycoon Donald Trump and actors Andie MacDowell and Brian Cox expected to attend.

The tweed appears in designs by Heriot-Watt University graduate Judy R Clark.

Meanwhile, weavers and mills producing the cloth have required financial support from UK Government and European funds.

The Harris Tweed used by Ms Clark, who is also taking part in a joint exhibition with her twin sister Christine in Edinburgh, is woven by her great uncle on his loom in Stornoway.

The invitation to exhibit her work at the Dressed for Kilt: Colors of Scotland is the latest high profile fashion show to promote the traditional material this month.

We want to do everything we can to support people in the economic downturn
James Purnell
Work and Pensions Secretary

The Celebration of Harris Tweed event was held at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway just days after the mothballing of the Kenneth MacKenzie mill - the biggest on the isles.

Operations were suspended for at least a year and staff paid off.

Clothes by Ann McCallum and Scottish designer of the year Deryck Walker were modelled at the event, organised by the Harris Tweed Authority.

But while tweed is strutted amid the glamour of catwalk shows, island weavers are being offered Jobseeker's Allowance.

Because they were classed as seasonal workers, they previously were not entitled to claim benefits in periods of no work.

Training budget

However, Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell has confirmed that the recession has forced a change.

He said: "We want to do everything we can to support people in the economic downturn.

"Information from the Harris Tweed Authority is telling me that the downturn has had an adverse impact on the weavers.

"I have asked Jobcentre Plus to look at the way the current rules can work positively to support people caught in the current downturn.

"Weavers should be advised to make a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance and each case will be dealt with on its own merits."

Earlier this week, the Scottish Government said just over £170,000 of European funds will be used to support Harris Tweed, with £82,000 allocated to training the next generation of weavers.



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SEE ALSO
Catwalk showcase for Harris Tweed
05 Mar 09 |  Highlands and Islands
Workers paid off as mill closes
03 Mar 09 |  Highlands and Islands
Fund to weave new life into Tweed
20 Jan 09 |  Highlands and Islands

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