The Harris Tweed Authority are to appoint an “ambassador” in Japan whose remit will include policing the improper use of the famous Orb trademark.
The move reflects increasing concern that the brand’s success is being diluted through the use of Orb labels on products which do not contain enough of the hand-woven fabric to justify their identification with Harris Tweed.
Lorna MacAulay, chief executive of the Harris Tweed Authority, based at the Town Hall in Stornoway, said: “Japan is an extremely important market for our industry and we have had to take action on a number of occasions in recent years against the misuse of the trademark.
“We have even had to deal with the forgery of labels which were then being sold for use on products that had no connection to genuine Harris Tweed.
“This is a very difficult problem to address at long range and we feel that the presence of an HTA representative on the ground, picking up on these cases quickly, could have a positive effect”.
She said that the HTA ambassador would also support the general promotion of the fabric as a luxury product, stressing the provenance and craftsmanship that have contributed to its popularity in Japan.
Lorna said they would continue to work closely with the British Embassy in Tokyo which has been consistently supportive of efforts to promote Harris Tweed and to prevent misuse of the Orb – the oldest British trademark in continuous use.
The move was welcomed by Brian Wilson, former UK Trade Minister, who now chairs Harris Tweed Hebrides, the biggest produce of the fabric.
He said: “In a sense, it is a compliment to the success of the brand that there are so many attempts to latch onto its name and reputation. However, there is no doubt about the danger of the brand being devalued and it can only be helpful to have someone who really knows the Japanese market working there on the industry’s behalf”.