Shopping: Dyed in the wool elegance

You can carry it all off smartly with a touch of mail order tweed, writes Fiona MacAulay

Three Japanese men in dark suits standing in the middle of a field of cows is not a usual sight in the hilly farmland of Perthshire.

However, a local farmer was quick to recognise them as travellers in search of The Glenalmond Tweed Company whose shop at Culnacloich farm about 10 miles north of Crieff is well known in the region for attracting far-flung customers.

Andrew and Sally St John started The Glenalmond Tweed Company in 1992. They sell beautifully made bags in brightly coloured and chequered Harris tweed with bridle leather straps and bindings, and solid brass fittings. The large selection includes a rucksack, two sizes of holdall and four of tote bag.

The tweed is bonded with a rubberised solution on to cotton canvas to make it waterproof, though one of the qualities of Harris tweed is that it repels water, because of its density and the natural oils in the wool. There is also a clothes range - mainly waistcoats, jackets and coats.

The designs and colours of the materials alone are reason enough to want to swathe yourself in Glenalmond products, but the styling is also good. A long waistcoat with a Nehru collar and a reversible tweed and leather jerkin were my favourites. A finishing touch is the stag-horn buttons used on all the clothes.

Though the journey to the shop makes for a wonderful expedition through stunning countryside, Glenalmond does a mail-order catalogue for those who cannot make it to north Perthshire. It also has outlets at Liberty, Brora and The Scotch House. This year it introduces a small collection designed by the Japanese designer Michiko Koshino.

Combining such a traditional fabric as Harris tweed and the designs of a wacky Japanese designer (she produced the first own-label condoms and designs the wild, leather Motor King range) may not at first seem obvious but the St Johns wanted to show how well the beauty of Harris tweed complements modern design shapes. After all, British designers, in particular Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith, have already shown how successfully tweed and tartan can be married with contemporary design ideas.

Michiko's range comes in the more subtle shades of Harris tweed - black, cream, greys and browns - and her designs are simple and well-cut. They include a reefer jacket and a quilted duffel coat for men and a double breasted mid-length coat for women. She has designed her own oval-shaped buttons, embossed with a sheep's head taken from the Glenalmond logo. Her bags are made in checked Harris tweed from the new furnishing type fabric that the St Johns are introducing to their range. It looks less woolly than the original fabric and so will be particularly good for spring and summer. "Our bag maker was rather taken aback when he received a prototype from Michiko in bright yellow plastic to be made up in tweed. He just wasn't used to modern materials!"

The St Johns have been visiting Harris for 14 years and are obviously in love with the place. They look forward enormously to their twice-yearly buying trips. They first went there after being shipwrecked on a trip to St Kilda and began a long relationship with a group of the island's weavers. "They are incredibly supportive about our business but all they are really interested in is the well-being of our flock of sheep; that's the real bond between us!"

Although the wool is now spun, dyed and finished by machine it is still woven by weavers in their own homes and so its production is literally a cottage industry. It is immediately recognisable by its weight and thick texture and for its amazing blending of colours which reflect the Hebridean landscape.

In the Glenalmond shop the St Johns also stock a selection of tweed to be sold by the metre. These include cloth made by Joan Maclennan, one of the few weavers who still uses the old wooden loom instead of the more modern Hattersley loom. She is one of the small group of weavers who use vegetable dyes made from indigenous plants. Elderberries for purple, indigo for blue, ragwort flowers and heather tips for yellow - the natural palette is extensive, as one can see from a close look her fabrics.The tradition of Harris tweed-making is steeped in ritual and folklore. The final part of the process used to be the blessing of the tweed: "Mayest thou enjoy it, Mayest thou wear it, Mayest thou finish it, Until thou find it in shreds, in strips, in rags, in tatters!" The Glenalmond Tweed Company brings us this wonderful fabric in its many designs of handbags, luggage and clothes so that we can do just what the blessing bids.

The Glenalmond Tweed Company, Culnacloich, Glenalmond, Perth PH1 3SN. Telephone 01738 880322 for a catalogue or local stockist.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
This year's models: buyers have plenty of options as they try to get the money together to drive away from the dealer in a new car

Car finance options: Best way to buy a 65 plate

Sales could find another gear as the '65' registration hits the forecourts next week. Rob Griffin looks at the finance options
In too deep? Travel cover is among the benefits offered by packaged bank accounts

Claims firms blamed as complaints soar over packaged bank accounts

Many customers complained they were switched to the accounts without their knowledge

Finger on the interest rate trigger: the Bank of England

The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums

Meanwhile, high-street lenders continue to cherry-pick and be more competitive on larger loans

China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'

The market plummeted this week, losing all the gains made for the year

Which? warns sports fans about Rugby World Cup ticket scams

GetSporting.com offers deals that may be too good to be true

Could it be the time to focus on Japan? Some believe the country has no choice but to boost consumption and the economy will get back on track

Investors told to travel the world in the search for higher returns

Assets have risen in value across the board and volatility isn't going away. Rob Griffin asks where we should put our cash
As rising house prices push up demand for renting, so tenants are having to dig deeper than ever

Starter home initiative is urgently needed as rents go through the roof

Rents in England and Wales rose by 1.9 per cent in July to an average of £804

Peer-to-peer lending rates put Nisas to shame

The returns from P2P providers look more attractive than ever

Questions of Cash: Log-in problems turned eDreams booking into one-way ticket to nowhere

The company failed to provide our reader's flight ticket - or a refund

Hot property: business has been booming in estate agents this month, even though it’s the height of the summer holiday season

Heat rises for mortgage deals as UK homeowners sense a rate hike coming

The housing market should go quiet in August but instead people have been acting like cheap loans won't last. Do we really have to rush, asks Simon Read
Phones have now overtaken personal computers as the most used way of accessing the internet

Who you gonna call? The Complaints Busters

Unhappy customers have been given their own Ombudsman to help fight for them.

Undergraduates are being tempted with freebies by banks

Students should give freebies a wide berth and focus instead on cheap borrowing

An interest-free loan far outweighs the value of any of the bank's incentives

The Spanish carrier changed a reader's flight from Madrid – to a time before she was due to land

Questions of Cash: 'A connecting Vueling flight was cancelled and all my travel costs were left hanging in the air'

Our reader encountered problems when flying from London to Ibiza in May to take part in a charity ride

Complacency about rising rates could prove to be costly

Interest rates stay at 0.5% for now - but don't wait to get a better deal on your savings and mortgage

The years of ultra-low rates are coming to an end

The elderly are being targeted by fraudsters with postal scams such as fake prize draws

Fraudsters are bombarding older people with dangerous pension scams: here we reveal the warning signs

Many people are being repeatedly targeted by crooked schemes

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Administrator

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a vibrant and establishe...

    Day In a Page

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests