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It's New York's tweed and tartan takeover

SCOTTISH textiles have become the toast of the Big Apple, with sales in the millions of dollars and New York designers falling over themselves to praise Scots fabrics as the best in the world.

Harris Tweed is one of the fabrics attracting the attention of New YorkersPhotograph: Mark Mainz
Harris Tweed is one of the fabrics attracting the attention of New YorkersPhotograph: Mark Mainz

Textiles from Scotland are having their moment in the spotlight after taking centre stage at a huge fashion event in New York.

The growth in popularity of tartan, plaid, lace and tweed was celebrated at the Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC) conference in the fashion capital of the US. The event ended last night.

Now in its 15th year, the event is attended by representatives from luxury retail giants including Barneys and SAKS Fifth Avenue, and fashion insiders.

Designers including Stella McCartney, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton continue to push traditional Scots fabrics, after showcasing them on their autumn/winter 2013 catwalks.

Alan Bain, president of The American Scottish Foundation in New York and director of Harris Tweed Textiles, attended the IAC event.

He said Harris Tweed was now selling more than one million metres of cloth globally a year, with America taking 30% of it.

"The popularity just keeps growing," said Bain. "We expect to be selling 1.5 million metres soon.

"There was a time when Harris Tweed was in trouble, but we're going the other way now."

Between 2009 and last year, production more than doubled for the Hebrides firm, from 450,000 metres of cloth to over a million.

Bain said the resurgence of Scottish fabrics was down to the heritage. "It is the authenticity that people like and the high-level of workmanship," he said.

"People are willing to pay more for something so unique."

Luxury designer store SAKS recently created its own tartan.

Lisa Koenigsberg, founder of Initiatives in Art and Culture, said the appeal of Scottish fabrics was their "unparalleled luxury".

She said: "I believe Scottish textiles represent artisanship at the highest level.

"Because the tradition uses age-old techniques with materials drawn from the land and incorporates motifs that resonate through time, it remains an unparalleled luxury."

Simon Doonan, creative ambassador at Barneys New York, said Scots mills were providing inspiration.

"The fabulousness of Scottish textiles knows no bounds," he said. "It starts with tartan and it keeps right on going.

"So many European designers are inspired by the majesty of Scottish mills."

The development comes after Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) became the first British University to open a New York base.

The university's decision to open in the city's SoHo district is part of a project to boost global growth and presence.

Courses on offer include the fashion business and luxury brand management.

Bain said: "With the emergence of Glasgow Caledonian University here there really is a massive focus on Scotland in New York."

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