The Courier Magazine 21st Feb 2015
Meet Your Maker by Helen Brown
“Ruth’s reinvention of Harris tweed”
Designer Ruth Morris is celebrating 15 years of fashion success highlighting that most Scottish of Fabrics, Harris tweed. Helen Brown investigated tweed for a new generation…
For this girl, it’s all about the material. Ruth Morris loves Harris tweed – and customers all over the world just love what she does with it.
Based in Pitlochry for the past eight years, where she runs her making operation out of a pebble-dashed garage beside her home, Ruth’s Roobedo label has grown and evolved since it first saw the light of day back in the year 2000.
She makes women’s daywear, accessories and homeware inspired by the Scottish landscape and shoreline, that sell everywhere from Japan and the US to Germany, Scandinavia and across the UK.
A graduate of the Scottish College of Textiles, she spent seven years in Industry before deciding to set up on her own.
“I wanted to stay in Scotland. I had always made my own clothes and people often asked about them. I started a separate collection while I was working in an independent retail outlet in Edinburgh, which carried the lines I made about 17 years ago now. I then went part-time to develop my own range and pretty quickly I realised this was what I really wanted to do. I had always loved Harris tweed as childhood holidays were to the Western Isles – and they still are. We used to stay on a croft, watch the sheep shearing and visit the local weavers which I loved.
It’s a high quality fabric, of course, and in the beginning, although Harris tweed was at the top of her wishlist, it was too pricey for a young designer starting out. Instead, she used materials like denim and cord and let clients know she could make up the designs they liked in tweed, too. “I forged connections with the mills in the Hebrides, which were so great about sending samples. I’m a small maker so I use stock supplies and the Harris Tweed mills carry a fantastic array of patterns.”
Her designs have evolved but are still based very strongly in the shapes and colours of the world around her – sea urchin or sea anemone prints are a theme, for example. She also honed her styles, becoming known for her elegantly-cut wide-legged trousers and for dressing gowns in pure Harris tweed.
She has also developed a technique of washing tweed that changes the dynamic of the fabric and lets it drape differently. “Harris tweed is a very traditional fabric of course, but it’s also extremely versatile – there are lots of bright colours available and it is quite capable of taking a very contemporary cut. It’s also hugely durable and lasts forever which might be a disadvantage to me as a designer and maker, except for the fact that it can do so much and there are so many ways to get something new, interesting and original out of it! My work is recognised by the Harris Tweed Authority in promoting ad protecting this wonderful fabric and its unique heritage for the future.”
As well as creating her own ranges, Ruth also teaches part-time. Her move to Perthshire has seen her getting involved in the county’s Open Studios intiative and has also led to her discovery of Glenlyon tweed, made in Aberfeldy. Many of the patterns and colours are inspired by Scotland’s longest glen.
“It’s exciting to work with although it’s quite different from the Hebridean style. It’s got a lighter weight, with more checks and patterns. It changes the silhouette of the garments and the way they drape. “I’m seeing what is can do and what I can do with it for my next collection.
“It’s also about sustainable fashion. Disposable fashion is against my ethos and I love the idea that I’m creating something that will last from materials that are made very close to where I live and work.”