By Eilidh Whiteford
Lewis-based designer Paulette Brough is returning to her roots as her Harris Tweed accessories company Rarebird introduces its first range of jackets, waistcoats and skirts this year.
Named after the elusive Corncrake – the small island bird often heard but rarely seen – Rarebird was established by Paulette in 2007 at her small cottage in Ness before opening a Carloway workshop in 2009, and an additional workshop and studio outlet at 1 Bells Road Stornoway in 2016.
Concentrating on handmade quality and clean designs, Paulette’s Harris Tweed accessories – scarves, gloves, hats, bags and more – have found homes the world over with Rarebird products sold in over 50 shops and galleries across Scotland, England and Wales and several outlets in the EU, USA and Japan.
Rarebird products are available in the British Museum in London, as well as from the National Trust of Scotland who also asked Paulette to make several of her designs in their own NTS tweed.
The company has seen orders from major department store Brooks Brothers for its Madison Avenue outlet in New York, and supplies eight stores in Japan, also featuring annually since 2009 at the British Fair in Hankyu department store in Osaka, Japan.
Paulette has been invited to the British Fair several times to showcase the products and demonstrate the skills and workmanship used to make her Rarebird designs.
In 2016 she was also pleased to secure a contract with Liberty of London to supply its iconic Tana Lawn prints as linings to Rarebird scarves, bags, gloves and small accessories.
“We’ve been really pleased to secure Liberty as suppliers of our coordinated fabrics as it gives us a quality brand and continuity for orders,” said Paulette.
“It’s proved to be a great success and has seen Rarebird’s wholesale orders increase with several new customers.”
And now with a new range of outerwear ladies jackets, of traditional fit and modern fit, with waistcoats and skirts to match – Rarebird is once again expanding as Paulette returns to her seamstress roots.
“I’ve been sewing since I was a child,” she said. “My mum used to make most of my clothes, I’d watch her, and make dresses for my dolls with the scraps of fabric left over.”
Paulette went on to spend two decades in clothing manufacture before moving to the Western Isles and starting Rarebird; and she’s delighted to once again be back in clothing design and production.
“Originally my background is in ladies and mens outerwear so I’m going back to my roots,” said Paulette. “I really like it but it is quite a big thing to take on – making in the UK and at the right price can be hard these days.”
Rarebird’s new range will be available in the Stornoway shop this spring/summer; and both Rarebird Stornoway and Carloway shops will have their usual plethora of Harris Tweed accessories, from scarves, gloves, collars and shawls, to hats, handbags and holdalls, bow-ties and brooches.
Many of the products feature Rarebird’s well-recognised and unique ceramic buttons, which have also recently been turned into handmade jewellery pendants.
And as well as her own creations, Paulette also stocks complementary jewellery and giftware, focusing on made in Scotland and offering a wide-range of budgets with something to suit everyone.
Scotland In Your Pocket delivers a bespoke collection of limited edition prints of paintings of many Scottish locations, in handy, portable, ‘pocket’ sizes – and a number of island scenes are available in Rarebird.
Elaborate jewellery from Orcadian designer Skaramanda works well with the Rarebird Harris Tweeds, as do the glass jewellery designs of Connell & Hart, and the handmade ranges carried from jewellery makers Arran Bay.
And there is a wonderful selection available from Western Isles Jewellery, with earrings and necklaces made by Miriam Hamilton from shells picked up off the island shores; as well as Hebridean Gneiss – one of the oldest rocks in the world – polished pendants created by designer Adam McIntosh of Two Skies Designs Ltd.
“We know we have a lot of visitors who are looking for something small and easy to pack and take home as a memento of their holiday, so we’ve a large range of products and prices available,” said Paulette.
“Everything we’ve brought for the shop really complements the Harris Tweed and I’m sure my customers will agree.”
Rarebird has two studio outlets – the first at Unit 1, Carloway, HS2 9AQ, on the main road between Carloway and Shawbost; and the second is the Stornoway studio, in a listed art deco building which was itself once a working Harris Tweed Mill, on the corner with James Street at 1 Bells Road, Stornoway.
Rarebird bags and accessories are also available throughout the Western Isles at Harris Tweed Hebrides Stornoway and Lews Castle in Stornoway, Harris Tweed Isle of Harris in Tarbert, and Taigh Chearsabhagh, North Uist.
And you can also take a look around the Rarebird online shop at www.rarebirddesign.co.uk