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Harris Tweed Design Competition

Harris Tweed, the venerable wool fabric hand woven by islanders in the West of Scotland, is nothing if not traditional. But tradition must sometimes bend to changing market forces. The tweed itself had been made lighter and softer, but the brand’s somewhat stodgy image still needed to be updated.

To take the makeover further, Harris Tweed Textiles and the American-Scottish Foundation sponsored an FIT Fashion Design competition in which students addressed what Art and Design Dean Joanne Arbuckle called the “nontraditional possibilities” of Harris Tweed. A fashion show of the finalists’ garments took place in March 2008 during New York Tartan Week. Alan Bain, president of HTT (USA), was pleased that the students’ designs not only successfully reinvented Harris Tweed, but reflected an understanding of the environment and culture the fabric comes from. The best-in competition winner Jusil Carroll, received $2,500 and a trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the Island of Harris and Lewis, where she got an in-depth look at how Harris Tweed is woven.

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