Morris grew up in Dundee and studied clothing at the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels, graduating in 1993. Having spent every summer as a child in the Hebrides, she developed a fascination and affinity with the serene Western Isles, which she describes as “moving and inspiring”.
“To me, it’s the most beautiful place in the world,” she explains. “I love the huge, open, golden beaches and I’m very much drawn to the sea.” Morris became fascinated by the whole Tweed industry, attracted to the idea of a totally homegrown product, with spinners and weavers working from their cottages. As a child, she visited the mills on Harris and Lewis.
After seven years in the clothing industry, Morris decided to branch out on her own, using tweed, wool and other natural fibres. Tweed is in her soul. “It’s just in me,” she says, “I’m drawn to the fabric and the fact that it’s all produced locally in the Hebrides. I love the – texture and the feel and the quality of it. I’m interested in the craft and skill of making tweed. It hangs beautifully in clothes.”
Morris is showing her current collection and samples from her winter 2001 collection at Intervention on 7 June. Her latest work for the winter collection draws much inspiration from Japan. Morris is interested in the history and culture of the Samurai warriors and an eastern sense of balance and karma comes across in the pieces.
Ruth Morris is based in Leith in Edinburgh and will be presenting her Roobedo 2001 and Winter 2001 collections at Scotland’s Runway at Intervention on 7 June.
The wild western shores of the Outer Hebrides are the foundation of Ruth Morris’s design. Inspired by nature, the sea, the herring, the gull,, open spaces and tranquillity, the Roobedo label is fresh, open and earthy, with simplicity counteracted by soft detail threaded throughout her collection.
A deep reverence of roots and the ancestors “who carved out history” is also a major theme running through Morris’s work. This sense of maintaining heritage and sustaining the wisdom and craft accumulated across centuries is apparent in her clothes.
“I love the clean, classic cuts and kimono style,” she explains. “They’re so comfortable to wear and very flattering.” The collection features a strong Japanese theme and Morris is working on a kimono suit that she plans to introduce next season. Pleats, herringbone and pinstripes are also a major feature of the current and winter collections, and Morris plans to introduce a wider flareleg cut trouser range.
Morris admires designers Vivienne Westwood and Claire McCardell but says she is keen to develop her own, unique style. “It’s very much a Roobedo silhouette I’m trying to create,” she explains, “long-line trousers, long-line skirts, fitted, tailored jackets and little coordinating tops shaped with darts are the Roobedo look – designed to complement the female form.”
Morris says her working ideology is “to produce high quality, comfortable and feminine clothing, and to bring effortless elegance and stylish chic”. She aspires to create a “refined silhouette” with the label and adds, “I wanted to make a range of clothes that would take you through the day – that you could wear to work – and into the evening.”
Comfort, quality and longevity are important factors in the clothes. Morris says: “I design warm, soft, tactile” clothes that are fully lined to glide over the body. I only use high-quality fabrics and I think it’s important to create lasting, fitted cuts. I want to build upon a really strong client base. As long as they like the fit, they’ll keep coming back.”
The cottage industry theme, using locally sourced products and being involved in the process from the wool to the sale of the finished garment, is of paramount importance to Morris. “I’m very much about using UKsourced products. I buy pure wool from the Borders. I like the idea of carrying a sense of our roots to the office.” She designs and makes most of the clothes herself, although she plans to use outworkers more so she can concentrate on design and expanding the business. She is currently working on printing techniques for future collections and hopes to expand into menswear.
Morris likes to emulate traditional styles and techniques with a contemporary twist. The Roobedo label combines traditional chalkstripe and herringbone with modern styles such as classic wideleg slacks. Colour plays a major part. “Within a piece of Harris Tweed, there are so many colours if you look closely,” she explains.
Roobedo is Morris’s nickname from college. Always called “Roo” by friends, it evolved into “Roobedo”, while the label runs with the caption: “Freeing you to be and do.” “Be yourself; do what you want,” adds Morris.
Not so much interested in the fashion industry, Morris says she was driven by the desire “to do my own thing and use the fabrics. I want my clothes to span across city and country,” she concludes. “I’m trying to get tweed to more people.”