Fast and effectively disposable fashion has seen clothing reduced to transient items, worn for a short period of time then discarded. This has pushed down prices, moving textile and clothing production to low-cost labour countries and decimating the traditional Scottish textile economy. Fast fashion drives consumer demand for newness and uses finite resources that are damaging to the environment. In 2019, the pressure to move towards a more sustainable fashion and textile industry is intense. Traditional textile manufacture using natural, renewable sources that are inherently long-lasting offers a slow fashion alternative, epitomized by the Harris Tweed handweaver community in Scotland. Fashion has embraced digital, with growing online sales and increasing focus on digital content. This presents an opportunity to redress the balance by using technology to shape a sustainable future for traditional textiles. Utilizing an interpretive paradigm and inductive approach, an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded networking grant is presented as a qualitative case study, investigating how immersive technologies can be used to safeguard the future of traditional textile products, to educate contemporary, global audiences on the provenance and human hand behind manufacturing processes and to encourage consumption of products with longevity. This explanatory case study finds that fashion brands are using immersive technologies for virtual changing rooms or creative customer experiences but are not exploiting the possibilities of immersive technologies in engendering a sense of place or people behind the product. Findings also reveal that the Harris Tweed Authority and Harris Tweed Hebrides brand successfully use landscape to convey a sense of place, but are under-utilizing the handwoven value and sustainable, slow fashion credentials of Harris Tweed. China is identified as a potential place for Harris Tweed to gain valuable market share, with increasingly wealthy Chinese Generation Z consumers seeking individual exclusivity and sustainability in their clothing purchases, criteria that embody Harris Tweed.
CROSS, K., STEED, J. and JIANG, Y. 2021. Harris Tweed: a global case study. Fashion, style and popular culture [online], 8(4), pages 475-494. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1386/fspc_00102_1