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How Isle of Harris Distillery Built a New Future for the Next Generation

The beauty of Scotland is truly encapsulated by the fiercely dramatic and disarming surroundings of the Isle of Harris. A picturesque and rugged landscape, with golden beaches, caressed by the lapping waves of the clear blue sea.

Despite its alluring nature, there has been a sad decline in the population of the island, with the community’s numbers halving over the last 50 years. The youth of Harris has been departing its shores in order to seek fortune elsewhere, often never returning to the place they called home because of lack of opportunities.

The Inspiration

It was the inspiration of Andrew Bakewell, a man who has been bound to this island through a long connection with nearby Scarp, who sought to find a way of sharing the rare and illusive spirit of the island, by turning the tide and building a new future for the next generation.

He believed that a distillery would capture the imagination, heart and soul of the community and help secure the future of the island.This dream became a reality when in 2015 the Isle of Harris Distillery opened its doors for the first time. It is now home to the world-famous Isle of Harris Gin, over 40 permanent members of staff and, more importantly, hope.

The distillery has also immersed itself in more than just its remarkable gin. In 2018, they set out to learn about the art of weaving and the skills of the people and mills who help bring the historic island textile known as Harris Tweed into being.

A local enjoying the world famous gin

The distillery, along with Harris Tweed Hebrides, the Harris Tweed Authority and the islands’ education services worked closely with local schools as they set local schoolchildren the challenge of designing a new Isle of Harris Distillery tweed while learning about this special and historic cloth from the Outer Hebrides.

After months of workshops and collaboration with local children, the eventual winner was 14-year-old Scott Murray. Scott’s winning design was woven by the distillery’s own Stephen Passmore and, last year, Isle of Harris Distillery collaborated with designer Judy R Clark to create a uniquely special made-to-measure, distillery Harris Tweed jacket from this cloth. Following the popularity of this limited edition, Isle of Harris Distillers and Judy R Clark announced the launch of two made-to-order jackets in the same style, sizes ranging from 6 – 18 for women and 36 – 48 for men.

Modelling the newly designed Harris Tweed

The People Involved

Iona Cairns, International Brand Development Manager at Isle of Harris Distillers, told The Atlantic Dispatch why initiatives like this are so important to the island.

“We hope this project helps to educate our customers on the mHany aspects of island life. The Tweed Project in particular was of great importance as Harris Tweed is such a big part of the island and we were delighted to work with Harris Tweed Hebrides and the Harris Tweed Authority to teach young people about the craftsmanship and history behind the famous cloth.”

As well as the contribution of the local community, also integral to this project has been the work of award-winning designer Judy R Clark, famed for her exquisite hand-tailored womenswear designs comprising of Harris Tweeds, Scottish lace and antique fabrics. Her work has travelled the globe showcasing in Japan, Italy, Russia, London, New York, Chicago and numerous platforms around the UK.

Speaking of her involvement, she said, “The Isle of Harris Distillery Collection has been such a wonderful project to work on, combining colours of the beautiful landscapes, blue seas and rose gold of the distillery has been a dream. The coats are contemporary and so wearable, with great attention to detail, each made by hand in Scotland.”

Handmade in Scotland

This project has continued to help illuminate the island further and the distillery’s work with the local community has forged a bond which has brought this tight knit wonder even closer together.

The Isle of Harris is home to less than 2,000 people, with strong roots and family ties to the land going back many generations. The people of Harris are proud of their sense of belonging to this place and to each other. A large open fire burns in the main public space in the heart of the distillery; a symbol of warmth, comfort and life.  Everything that captures the very essence of this historic and awe-inspiring land.

Enjoying a gin in the perfect setting

The Isle of Harris Distillery Tweed Made-to-Order Jackets will be available globally this FW21, from the Harris Distillery site, priced at £660 including UK postage. Further details on international postage will be available on the website. The option to try a sample jacket is available at the Isle of Harris Distillery.

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