This video shows the evolution of British Tweed and how it has reinvented itself from vintage quintessential British elegance crossing over into the trendy, hip catwalk which has a worldwide following today.
The montage depicts the movement of tweed from vintage style of the Duke of Windsor and Brideshead Revisited across to the modern take of Burberry, David Beckham, Bryan Ferry and other sartorialists.
Interestingly in recent years vintage tweed has developed a strong following amongst young and old in the Tweed Run - a bike promenade initially started in London but which now has similar runs in Florence, New York, Sydney, Germany and other places.
British tweed has a diversity which suits young and old, aristo and farmer, traditional and trendy.
I would love to know the forums thoughts on this trend towards tweed and where you are seeing its revival whether on the catwalk or the street.
Crikey! Madonna's stealing my style: Simon Heffer on the soaring popularity of Harris Tweed
In a climate such as ours tweed is the most natural, and attractive, defence
It was for years a secret confined to rural types like me, who needed warmth
Fashion designers are queuing up to buy industrial quantities of the stuff
As well as being warm and comfortable, it comes in all colours and designs
Until recently I prided myself on never having done anything fashionable in my life, but it appears that is no longer the case. Apparently, Harris Tweed, in which I habitually swathe myself during the colder months, is the must-have item in everyone's wardrobe.
I wonder what has taken people so long.
In a climate such as ours — and I think we can all agree, as Britain shivers into April, that we can forget global warming — tweed is the most natural, and attractive, defence against the elements.
But it was for years a secret confined to rural types like me, who needed warmth and protection when on a long, windswept walk with the dog or when standing still in a field in January with a gun waiting for a covey of partridges to fly over. Not any more.
Apparently, Harris Tweed is a star of the catwalk. Designers such as Chanel, Alexander McQueen and Ralph Lauren are queueing up to buy industrial quantities of the stuff. Even Madonna has climbed aboard the Harris Tweed bandwagon.
This interest from haute couture has prompted a big textile manufacturer from China — where else? — to announce that it was buying a majority share in one of the three tweed mills on the island of Harris, in the Outer Hebrides.
The new proprietor plans to be the biggest supplier of Harris Tweed not just to China, but to many other countries, too — he already sells to 52 around the globe.
I can see why the material is so appealing to couturiers. As well as being warm and comfortable, Harris Tweed comes in all colours and designs. It isn't just brown herringbone.
Anyone who has ever commissioned a garment made from it knows there can be hours of fun looking at a vast range of swatches of material and trying to envisage what a coat would look like when made of it.
We went through this process three years ago. I had a big birthday coming up and my wife decided she would like to give me a Harris Tweed overcoat.
I had for years searched in shops for such a thing, but in those locust years for the industry, finding a decent one off-the-peg was impossible.
Indeed, one of the scandals about this country is that finding a decent man's overcoat of any description, unless you have one made for you, is almost impossible, too.
Tweed all about it: Simon Heffer and Madonna agree on one thing - the worth of this cloth
During the Nineties I got through three or four non-tweed ones. Not only did they fall apart within a couple of winters — quite unlike the old British Warm my father had for about 40 years — but they were not especially effective even before they did.
I couldn't help noticing how almost all coats did not button up much above the waist, leaving most of the chest exposed, therefore inviting pneumonia.
After I at last found one that did cover most of my chest — from a Savile Row tailor at a huge amount of money — it started to disintegrate during its second winter.
It was at this point that I took the plunge and commissioned my first bespoke overcoat.
I went to a friendly tailor and showed him a picture of George V at an event in the winter of 1923, wearing a rather fine dark coat. 'I want that,' I said.
The coat was black, double-breasted, long — it finished about a hand's length above the ankles — and His Late Majesty looked very snug in it. One was duly made, lined with red wool. It has lasted me 13 winters, is as good as new and kept me warm on a minus 25 degrees visit to the Baltic states one February.
However, I did realise that such a coat has its limitations. It is fine on cold days, but on merely chilly ones the wearer risks heatstroke.
Also, it is funereal in appearance, which means it is perfect for wearing in London and, indeed, at funerals, but unsuitable for less formal wintry occasions.
A lighter, but still warm, coat that can be worn in the country or anywhere on a not-too-cold day was obviously required, and tweed was the answer.
So in the spring of 2010 we went to see the man who had built (and I use that verb advisedly) my dark overcoat, David Goddard of King's Lynn, to see whether he could do something similar for me in tweed.
Mr Goddard makes the estate clothes for the Queen at Sandringham, so knows what he is doing.
We were shown a vast number of swatches — all woven at home by self-employed weavers on Harris.
These, as I have hinted, proved not just overwhelming in number, but nearly impossible to envisage as a greatcoat. Eventually my wife chose a green one — compulsory for my red hair, she thought — with a horizontal blue stripe and a vertical brown one. Then came the easier business of choosing the style.
Mr Goddard had an archive, including line drawings from numerous tailoring magazines of the Thirties. In one of the pictures, a man in a long double-breasted tweed overcoat sucked on a pipe while looking highly fashionable — for 1934. 'That's the one,' I said, though decided to forgo the pipe.
This was March, and we hoped to have the coat in time for my birthday in July — purely for presentational purposes, as we weren't expecting the weather to turn that ugly so early.
However, Harris Tweed is a handmade business and when the order for a large number of yards of this particular cloth reached the weaver in his cottage on the island, it was not going to be the work of a moment to supply it.
It was around the time of my birthday that the cloth finally arrived — woven with love and care in the Outer Hebrides — and I went to Norfolk for a fitting of the coat. We also had to choose the appropriate buttons — with so fine a cloth, only horn would do.
Various pockets were commissioned, including one inside that was big enough to accommodate a copy of the Daily Mail folded in half. And a lining was chosen, with an inner thermal one just to ensure no chill could ever set in.
I finally took delivery of the coat that September. It was, and is, magnificent. It is entirely warm and very comfortable, and not quite so overpowering in weight and warmth as my dark overcoat.
I have the perfect coat for not-so-cold winter (and spring) days and smart events in the country.
Ever since I acquired it, I have wondered where it had been all my life. The only bore is that I have become fashionable.
My wife takes a more practical view. She feels that if the North Koreans invade and we are forced to be refugees, the only thing we should take on fleeing are the two overcoats. Between them, she says, they should keep the whole family warm.
What worries me more is her other idea that, in an extreme, we could barter them for food. I think I would rather die from starvation than part with either of them.
With the Chinese following the fashion for tweed, weavers on Harris have round-the-year work for the first time in years.
The industry was in decline — with production falling from five million metres a year in the mid-Eighties to less than 90,000m in 2007.
Now, it seems, there is even a shortage of weavers.
For it is not just great fashion houses that are buying it — so are Topman, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and John Lewis. appealing to couturiers.
Harris Tweed is everywhere and people can't get enough.
In these harsh economic times, that is a good news story. And with even gold falling in price, perhaps the next step for the wise investor is to hoard increasingly precious and desirable bolts of Harris Tweed. (dailymail.co.uk)