Dedicated follower in fashion world
Our fashion industry is still not taken seriously, says Tessa Hartmann
Is Scotland fashionable? It sounds like a topic for the chattering classes to debate after a designer shopping spree. You might ask why it matters because you couldn’t care less whether skinny jeans have given way to baggy denims, white is the new black, or Bay City Roller trousers will ever be cool again.
But it merits serious analysis given that our economy benefits from 500 design and textile companies with joint turnover in excess of £1bn.
The textiles industry employs more than 22,000 people in Scotland. That gives us 22,000 reasons why it is i mportant for Scotland to be considered fashionable.
If we fail to communicate the right global message about Scottish design and textile skills we risk losing an important source of employment.
One of the reasons I launched the inaugural Scottish Fashion Awards in May was a belief that we can only plant our flag confidently on the global fashion map by creating a bold showcase for our design talents and our expertise in manufacturing, textiles and luxurious cashmere.
It was critical to showcase them before the industry’s leading opinion-formers. That’s why we assembled a stellar list of judges for the awards including British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman; Jean Marc Loubier, a director of LVMH; Alastair Johnston, vice- chairman of IMG, owner of the world’s number one model agency, and Jennifer Uner, founder of the Los Angeles Fashion Awards.
Before the event sceptics were asking: “Do we even have any Scots who are big in fashion?” We were glad to be able to demonstrate that the answer was a resounding “Yes’’.
And I was even more delighted that we persuaded so many of them to jet in from the fashion capitals of the world to attend the awards.
Few Scots could have told you before the event that leading fashion houses of Salvatore Ferragamo; Escada and Sonia Rykiel are all headed by Scots creative directors – namely, Graeme Black, Brian Rennie and April Crichton.
As well as these established players, there are up-and-coming Scottish design stars, including Jonathan Saunders and hot new talent Christopher Kane, whose inspirational graduate collection caught the eagle eye of Anna Wintour, US editor of Vogue. Scots talent includes fashion photographer Albert Watson and top stylist Joe McKenna.
With this wealth of talent emanating from Scotland you might wonder why, when I was invited to address Scottish Enterprise’s textiles conference on the topic of ‘ Scotland the Fashionable’, I began with two blunt questions: Is Scotland really fashionable? and Who says so?
There were a few raised eyebrows over my temerity at putting the nation’s fashion reputation under a critical spotlight.
I was not seeking controversy for controversy’s sake. Indeed, I am a patriot and fashion lover as well as passionate believer in this nation’s ability to produce phenomenal talent. So why raise the question?
I believe there is a real danger that slogans such as ‘Scotland the Fashionable’ or ‘Glasgow: Scotland with Style’ are too freely bandied about as part of ill-considered and often inward-looking marketing campaigns.
Events and campaigns need to be about more than just razzamatazz. They need to have a strategic focus and an eye to international export markets (the most important for our design and textile firms) otherwise they are just expensive parties.
Making a Russian model the face of ‘Glasgow: Scotland With Style’ will haunt us for a long time.
And there was a cringe factor over the inaugural Edinburgh Fashion Festival too. A collection by Vivienne Westwood was the star attraction but she was not even there. In the world of catwalk, my dears, the designer accompanies the models after the finale. Why run the show without the designer ? It makes Scotland look lacking in confidence and amateurish.
We have shown that the right event will attract the key influencers.
Now that the biggest fashion wagon to come to Scotland for decades has left town, it is critical that we continue to raise the game in promoting our fashion talent. How do we do that: For starters, we are already planning the second Scottish Fashion Awards and this time, with the industry’s help, we hope to showcase designs by Scottish-based companies as well as ex-pats.
To deliver the message beyond our shores we are also working on an exciting new project called ‘ Catwalk Caledonia’ which would involve a travelling exhibition linked to major fashion weeks around the world, showcasing Scottish talent in Los Angeles, Paris, London and New York.
Anyone can look in a mirror and tell themselves they look fabulous. Having someone else tell you means so much more.
When the tagline ‘ Cool Caledonia’ begins appearing in Womens Wear Daily, Drapers Record, the New York Tribune or Paris Match as well as at home, then we can truly say, with hand on heart – yes, Scotland is fashionable.
TessaHartmannisManagingDirectorofthe TFFAgencyandcreatoroftheinaugural ScottishFashionAwards
Shining example: International supermodel Kirsty Hume at the Scottish Fashion Awards
Straight talking: Tessa Hartmann