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Scotland sells more than two and a half times more textiles to China than it did a decade ago

Views:1     Author:Site Editor     Publish Time: 2020-12-02      Origin:Site

As Scots don their clan tartans in celebration of national bard Robert Burns this weekend, they may be surprised to learn they will not be the only ones. Fashion-conscious Chinese shoppers are buying more traditional Scottish clothing than ever before – from tweed suits to golfing trews.


Estimates from HM Revenue & Customs indicate that exports of textiles from Scotland to China are about to hit a record high, after sales in the first nine months in 2013 reached nearly £9.7m – outstripping the total for the previous year. Scotland sells more than two and a half times more textiles to China than it did a decade ago.

According to the tweedmakers of the Isle of Harris, off Scotland’s west coast, the Chinese appear keen to wrap themselves in the history of the region.

“It’s about provenance, British [identity] and quality,” said Brian Wilson, chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, and a business ambassador for the UK government. “If you can tick these three boxes in China then you’ve got a good chance.”


Harris Tweed Hebrides is responsible for about 90 per cent of the handwoven tweed cloth made in the Outer Hebrides, and is about to secure its first Chinese fashion client. It already provides tweed upholstery to Chinese customers – by supplying the UK furniture maker Tetrad, which shipped its first products to China this month.


Johnstons of Elgin, a wool and cashmere clothing maker based in the northern Scottish city, exported £200,000-worth of goods to China last year. “What the Chinese absolutely love is the history and heritage that some of the companies have,” said Ian Pryde, Johnstons’ export sales director. “Johnstons now is 215 years old. The Chinese love that.” The company recently appointed agents in Beijing and Shanghai to secure more business.

For newer manufacturers, however, the challenge is establishing their brands in the face of competition from Chinese copycats. On a trade visit to Beijing in March last year, Glasgow-based fashion designer Rebecca Torres found that buyers “were really into kilts and tartan trousers.” But she also discovered several Chinese suppliers with names that sounded surprisingly Scottish.

One way Chinese fashionistas have been able to ensure the authenticity of their clothes is by travelling closer to the source. Roubi L’Roubi, creative director of Huntsman of Savile Row – once the tailor to King Edward VIII – has found that customers from Asia are visiting the London shop specifically to order tweed suits. “Some people want to get things from the origin,” he said. “They want to know how it’s woven and where. They’re curious.”


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