The Harris Tweed Authority Educational Trust has long supported Fashion & Design students. It is vital that the next generation of design talent knows what is like to work with Harris Tweed® fabric: understanding its definition, its composition, how it handles on the cutting and sewing table, how it performs and hangs in the tailoring process.
Each year a few, fortunate, carefully-selected, final year students receive a donation of their choice of Harris Tweed® fabric for use in their graduate collection.
We asked a couple of recent graduates to share the results. The depth of care going into the design and planning of their work is remarkable. Inevitably, lockdown and the ongoing world situation has had a direct impact on how they worked as well as what they produced.
Part of the enduring nature of Harris Tweed® fabric is that it has held an important place for all areas of society. It began life as a humble cloth, designed from necessity and woven for practicality. It found fame, through the work of the Countess of Dunmore, in the richest and most fashionable houses. It is equally the fabric of memory – the worn jacket of a grandparent, the tweed skirt of a teacher – as it is the fabric of now.
Exploring this balance helped Glasgow School of Art graduate, Poppy Brooks, achieve a collection that is both glamorous and comforting, refined and durable, about history and about the challenges we face today.
For Poppy, the material always comes before the design. She wanted fabric that was ‘colourful, tactile and emotional’ to create an ‘antidote to the pandemic.’ She collected a veritable dressing-up box of British-made fabulous fabrics, natural materials and so-called deadstock – cloth leftover from other designers. And what a pedigree to this dressing-up box! Alongside the smoky grey and chocolate brown herringbone check she selected from Harris Tweed Hebrides, she also sourced fabric from designer Richard Malone, from Taylor & Lodge (who made the wool blend worn by Daniel Craig as James Bond) and from Stephen Walters (who famously provided the silk taffeta for Princess Diana’s wedding dress).
But what to do with such rich source material? Lockdown had ‘robbed [us] of the social times so important to youth,’ Poppy told us, so she responded by imagining the parties she might have missed. Her collection ‘explores romanticised ideas of comfort and frivolity.’ At the same time, she drew on current images in the news of NHS staff, hospital patients and PPE.
Her resulting ‘smoking jacket’ design is simultaneously reminiscent of high society parties from a previous age and the comfort of a hospital dressing gown. For Poppy, the use of Harris Tweed® was ‘pivotal’ to the collection. It nodded to heritage, but also to memories of her grandad and to ‘more hopeful times.’
Was it difficult: working from home, combining silk and tweed on her small sewing machine in the flat she shared with another student? She laughs that the flat ‘became a bombsite’ probably because she ‘went to town on the details,’ quilting and shredding and revelling in the process of creativity. The result strikes a moody, eclectic balance and it won her a prestigious ‘Incorporation of Tailors’ prize for Best Tailoring Student as well as First Class BA Honours in Fashion Design.
What next for Poppy? She speaks to us from her home in the Lake District – where she dreams of working within the Fashion industry tackling big issues like sustainability. With the level of imagination, production and skill she has evidenced, and with a return to more hopeful times, our hope is that all her dreams are realised.
The Harris Tweed® fabric Poppy chose for her collection is a grey and brown check (2025-D4) handwoven for Harris Tweed Hebrides.
Follow Poppy on Instagram: @poppybrooksstudio
Discover more of Poppy’s graduate collection design and development
See more from Glasgow School of Art 2021: Graduate Fashion Week