By Joseph Pastrana
Tweed has always been a part of pop culture in novels and movies – from the iconic Chanel jacket in “The Devil Wears Prada” to debonair James Bond suits. But the non-fiction book “Homespun – True Tales of Tweed” gives an insider look into the world behind this fabric and reveals in so many wasy how the truth makes tweed even more special than fiction.
Homespun: True Tales of Tweed
1. Chanel discovered tweed while fishing in Scotland – The Chanel Fall-Winter 2022/2023 Collection was devoted entirely to tweed. Seeing those luxurious dresses, jackets, and ensembles today, it’s difficult to imagine that tweed was conceived for farmers and fishermen who needed sturdy clothing to endure the harsh weathers in Scotland and Ireland.
2. Nothing beats custom tweed suits made in Savile Row – There is no better menswear in the world than bespoke garments by the tailors in London’s legendary Savile Row. On average, a suit costs £5,000 and takes twelve weeks, three fittings, and sixty hours of painstaking work to complete. While each tailoring establishment on the row has a specific style, the clothes are made precisely to each customer’s measurements and specifications.
3. Costume designers consider countless details for what’s needed for stage or screen – What a character wears in movies or Broadway shows informs the viewers about who he is. Tweed is used by acclaimed stage costume designers like Tracy Christensen to show that the character is probably an intellectual, wealthy, or sophisticated. But there are other things the designer has to account for – such as how heavy the clothes will be if the actor has to wear them for an extended period of time, or if they need to have special snaps or zippers for quick changes in between scenes.
4. Tweed provides homes comfort and versatile utility – This enduring fabric isn’t only used for garments but interior designers turn to it for upholstering special chairs or couches, as curtains or rugs. Leading New York interior designer Peter Sandel says they add character to the home and exude warmth and comfort in many ways.
5. Harris Tweed is considered the best but other varieties are just as wonderful – Most people are familiar with Harris Tweed which is certified for being made by specific standards in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. But there are many varieties that are just as amazing. Irish Donegal tweeds for instance are ingrained with colorful knops that make them “sparkle”.
6. Wool is enduring and sustainable – Tweed is an eco-friendly material because it lasts for more than a lifetime, can be recycled, and uses wool shorn from sheep. And shearing is a necessity because if sheep are allowed to keep growing wool it begins to impede their movement. And during the summer, some can even die from the heat. Untended wool also attracts parasites that can be harmful to sheep.
7. Tweed is worldwide – While the material is often associated with fashion capitals like New York and London, tweed lives on everywhere. It is as popular in Paris and other European cities. But perhaps more surprisingly in Asian centers like Tokyo and Hongkong. And with new lightweight tweeds, it is even wearable in warmer climates!
8. From Essentials to Accessories – Tweed has been fashioned into jackets and overcoats. But did you know it’s also been used to make handbags? In Edinburgh, Catherine Aitken makes a range of bags using upcycled tweed. Major shoe brands have incorporated the fabric into sneakers as well. Every day, designers are coming up with countless ways tweed can elevate style in the items they create.
9. Classics are forever – Tweed is among the most classic fabrics. For centuries, each generation has used it to reflect the era of its existence. It was a signifier of family ties or high social status. In the 1920s jazz age it was favored by sporty Ivy League youth. It was modern in the 1970s, conservative in the 1980s. And today, cutting edge designers are experimenting with ways tweed can define the tech age.
10. Tweed is the future – Japanese designer Junya Watanabe has made jackets bonding neoprene with tweed. Others, like London-based Dashing Tweeds are trying to make functional garments that go beyond looking great. The imaginative people behind the brand have integrated luminous fibers into the yarn of its specialty fabrics so that anyone can be safe riding bikes and looking elegant because the outfits made from the material glows against headlights.
There’s more to learn about tweed and its legacy. Read “Homespun – True Tales of Tweed”. It’s an entertaining journey through centuries and continents and into the worlds of fashion, theater, art, and those who dedicate themselves to creating with tweed.