Permanent Style on Breanish Tweed

Permanent Style is one of my favourite blogs on style and menswear, really in-depth articles done with great eye for detail and knowledge about the industry. If you haven’t visited, I’d really recommend it – it has grown into a real resource, independently minded and highlighting some wonderful companies.

We wove a tweed for Permanent style after Simon visited us on Lewis. Here is a link to the article written by Simon Crompton and I have also pasted it below. Some great photos by Andy Barnham as well.

Oh yes, and I’d really recommend Simon’s Book – The Finest Menswear in the World.

Breanish Tweed: Unique luxury

Breanish Tweed has all the hallmarks of a Harris tweed weaver: old single-width looms stored in draughty sheds; decades of experience in hand weaving; a stunning but hostile location that constantly reminds one of tweed’s insulating properties. But Breanish is deliberately not Harris Tweed.

Breanish falls down in several key respects. Its wool does not exclusively come from the Blackface and Cheviot sheep on the island. That wool is not woven by one of the islands’ three mills. And most of its tweed is too lightweight. Legally, therefore, it fails.

But in terms of craftsmanship, it is as good if not better than the other tweed weavers on Harris and Lewis (the two halves of what is essentially one island). There are over 100 tweed weavers on the island, mostly one-man and one-shed operatons. Yet Breanish is one of only about a dozen left that use the old single-width looms. It has two of the old Hattersleys, one 40 years old and one over 90 (shown top). Most weavers don’t want to use these cumbersome, iron machines – the younger one, Bertha, was bought by Breanish for a bottle of whisky. Several more are stored in a separate shed, to supply spare parts.

Breanish is also the only weaver on the whole island to still do its own warping. This involves stripping off the yarn from the cones supplied by the mills and lacing them by hand around a wooden frame about three metres wide (above). The resulting length is pulled off in plaits, before being ‘beamed’. That requires the wool to be run across two beams in the roof of the shed, with one man holding it down to retain tension, and then wound onto a big metal drum (below).

Beaming adds about two hours to the total of two days that it takes to weave 40-60 metres of tweed. But it enables Breanish to do much smaller runs because it doesn’t have to reply on the warp supplied by a mill. This is one of the reasons why Breanish started weaving more unusual cloths, such as cashmere, lambswool and vicuña: it was only economical in these smaller runs. As a result, Breanish has now become unique in the world of luxury, handwoven wool. It supplies everyone from Norton & Sons to United Arrows.

Breanish’s weaving style of 2x1or 2×2 depending on the pattern (that metric refers to the number warp threads to weft threads) is also exactly the same as Harris Tweed. It is possible to weave one by one (a traditional plain weave) but that requires a restructuring of the loom to shift to from four boards to two. And it makes no difference to softness or longevity – that’s down to the wool used.

Breanish’s small runs also mean it can do bespoke orders for those that take the time to visit, and a post next week will give the details on a Permanent Style tweed that I designed while up on the tip of nowhere. It’s a nice subtle herringbone with heather woven in, using the Shetland wool that is slightly softer than the more traditional Harris Cheviot. It will be available to order throughout December, at a special discount for Permanent Style readers on the normal bespoke price. The tweed will then be woven in January and delivered in February.

This trip was part of the research for an upcoming book, The Finest Menswear in the World, based on visits to factories and ateliers around the globe. More details here next year.

Photography: Andy Barnham

A Breanish photo album…

I’ll be adding a few photos to this google photo album which you can look at – from classic tailoring using Breanish Tweed, to new patterns. I’ve had quite a few requests to put some patterns up, so I’ll do that. Feel free to ask if there’s anything you’d like to see! Just past in the weird looking link below.


The Rake Article on Breanish Tweed

Love The Rake Magazine. And also love Simon Crompton’s blog at One of the best blogs about menswear/luxury/craft there is.

We were lucky enough to have Simon visit us on Lewis, with photographer Andy Barnham, and this piece came out of it.

We also wove a one-off tweed for Permanent Style, which was a lovely project.

Anyway, enough chat. Here it is.


THE RAKE page 2.jpgTHE RAKE page 1.jpgTHE RAKE page 3.jpgTHE RAKE page 4.jpgTHE RAKE page 5.jpg

GQ Japan Article

A piece on Breanish Tweed in GQ Japan, and a mention from the great Mr Kurino at United Arrows.

Hirofumi Kurino : Managing Director, Creative Advisor, United Arrows Ltd.

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake last year, I’ve been wondering what really constitutes a luxury, and thinking the criteria may have changed. I suspect a luxury may not be something famous or something new, but something whose creation involved considerable human labour.

The suit I am wearing now is this Autumn/winter’s three-piece from District. I had them weave a lightweight Breanish Tweed cloth from the Outer Hebrrides, and had the suit made in Japan. The fabric has the simplicity and freshness that is unique to hand weaving.

When I ordered it last year, I asked Iain, who is in charge of design, to make it the colour of the sea, so he created a fabric in the colours of the sea as he saw it, deep blue plus green and light blue. I heard that the shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik had a Breanish Tweed suit custom made through a tailor in Savile Row. This means that something made on an island where only 2,000 people live was delivered to a man who understands the essential qualities of things.

Scottish brands such as the beautifully coloured tartans of Lochcarron, Johnstons who modernised cashmere, and Harris Tweed all involve human labour and touch the heart because, in a good sense, they are imperfect. Right now, they may be close to the things I like best.