HIGH­LAND FLING

Tak­ing their in­spi­ra­tion from windswept is­lands, peaty moors, clear springs and jagged hills, the world­wide love af­fair with all things Scot­tish shows no sign of wan­ing, says Emma John­son.

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In­spired by windswept is­lands, peaty moors, clear springs and jagged hills, our love af­fair with all things Scot­tish shows no sign of wan­ing.

THERE IS PER­HAPS nowhere whose land­scape has lent it­self so defini­tively to its coun­try’s prod­ucts and brand­ing, than Scot­land. Wild, beau­ti­ful, un­spoilt, rich in raw ma­te­ri­als and qual­ity pro­duce, it is a be­guil­ing coun­try and one whose iden­tity is in­fused with so many of its pop­u­lar ex­ports. “The He­bridean Is­lands are a mag­i­cal place where the weather can change dra­mat­i­cally in a very short space of time but there is a rus­tic, dra­matic beauty to the land­scape and an in­tegrity and grace to its peo­ple,” says Mark Hog­a­rth, cre­ative di­rec­tor at Har­ris Tweed He­brides, whose con­nec­tion to his land­scape and lo­cal com­mu­nity is para­mount. “There is a near soul­ful re­la­tion­ship be­tween the land­scape here, the peo­ple and the ‘clo mor’ (Gaelic for ‘big cloth’),” he adds. “We re­spect Scot­land’s man­u­fac­tur­ing his­tory enor­mously,” con­tin­ues Alec Farmer, founder of niche back­pack brand Trakke, a lux­ury out­door life­style man­u­fac­turer based in Glas­gow. “Which is why we’re so proud to use Scot­tish waxed can­vas as the pri­mary ma­te­rial in our bags. It com­mu­ni­cates a sense of place, and prove­nance, while also sup­port­ing lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing. All of these are fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant to us.”

ORI­GINS

For many brands to­day, their Scot­tish ori­gins are cen­tral to their very iden­tity. Renowned de­signer Christo­pher Kane con­tin­ues to evoke ev­ery­thing from tar­tan mini-kilts to over­sized jumpers fea­tur­ing the dis­tinc­tive Lion Ram­pant of Scot­land in his lat­est col­lec­tions, while, in con­trast, Louise Gray de­signs bold colour­ful pieces to coun­ter­act the dark­ness of a Scot­tish win­ter: “The Scot­tish win­ter can be re­ally de­press­ing. When I close my eyes, I see ev­ery­thing in colour,” she told The Scots­man. Sa­man­tha Mc­coach, founder of Le Kilt, proudly evokes her Scot­tish her­itage by cre­at­ing pieces that cel­e­brate and hon­our the time­less Scot­tish tar­tan in a va­ri­ety of colours and cuts, while Kirsteen Stewart, who is based in Orkney and grew up in Kirk­wall, is in­spired by her lo­cal land­scape and the ex­pe­ri­ence of is­land liv­ing. “From the dra­matic open skies, ragged coast­lines and the cease­less mo­tion of the seascapes, to the graphic lines of maps and the move­ment of lights seen with fre­quent travel to the main­land,” she says. Stewart de­signs colour­ful, dy­namic prints both by hand and dig­i­tally, play­ing with scale, tex­ture and mo­tion

LAND­SCAPE

For Scot­tish brands, the land­scape, the weather, the cul­ture is in­fused in nearly ev­ery­thing they do. Based on the Isle of Bute, off the west coast of Scot­land, and founded in 1947 by the fifth Mar­quess of Bute, with the sole pur­pose of pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for ser­vice peo­ple re­turn­ing home from the Sec­ond World War, Bute Fab­rics also has an in­trin­si­cally Scot­tish iden­tity. One of the brand’s most renowned col­lec­tions is its orig­i­nal tweed fab­ric with vis­i­ble flecks on the yarn, while it has also been work­ing with lo­cal farm­ers in the hope of in­cor­po­rat­ing lo­cal Bute fleece into some of its up­com­ing fab­rics “The no­tion of prove­nance and our lo­ca­tion is re­ally im­por­tant to our brand,” says se­nior de­signer Kirsty Neil. “Our his­tory is in­trin­sic to our lo­ca­tion. We try to bring many of our clients to Bute for a visit, to give them an in­sight into our work­ing mill and the land­scape around us which is a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion.” For back­pack brand Trakke, how­ever, it was ac­tu­ally Scot­tish ma­te­ri­als that es­tab­lished the brand’s USP. “With the de­ci­sion to fo­cus on waxed can­vas ev­ery­thing fell into place,” ex­plains founder Alec Farmer. Weath­er­proof, quintessen­tially Scot­tish, hav­ing been in­vented by Scot­tish fish­er­men over 150 years ago and man­u­fac­tured in the same lo­ca­tion in Dundee, Scot­land, for gen­er­a­tions, waxed cloth is an in­te­gral part of the story of Scot­tish man­u­fac­tur­ing. “Be­ing a Scot­tish brand mat­ters to us, be­cause it’s wo­ven into ev­ery thread of the bags. It’s a part of the broader nar­ra­tive of the com­pany - Trakke was born from a de­sire to have bags that can cope with what­ever this beau­ti­ful coun­try can (and will!) throw at you.” Per­haps, though, there is no more im­por­tant sense of place in a prod­uct than in Scotch whisky, which has al­ways been a stal­wart of Scot­tish ex­ports. In Is­lay, an is­land off the coast of Scot­land, Laphroaig has been craft­ing sin­gle malt Scotch whisky for over 200 years. Laphroaig - which trans­lates to ‘the beau­ti­ful hol­low by the broad bay’ - ben­e­fits from be­ing pro­duced on land next to ocean wa­ter which gives it its unique, peaty taste and boasts a Royal War­rant from HRH Prince Charles. It is also one of only a few dis­til­leries that still uses tra­di­tional malt­ing floors and dries and in­fuses its own malt with the thick blue smoke from old peat-fired kilns at their dis­tillery in Is­lay. Si­mon Brook­ing, Scotch am­bas­sador at Laphroaig, ex­plains why Laphroaig whisky has such an im­por­tant iden­tity. “Laphroaig’s un­mis­tak­able flavour is a di­rect re­flec­tion of its ori­gin. From the salty brine of the sea­wa­ter and ocean breeze, to the earthy-smok­i­ness from the malted bar­ley dried over a peat fire from our sev­eral-thou­sand-year-old bogs, the char­ac­ter­is­tics of Is­lay’s unique geo­graph­i­cal el­e­ments are re­flected in ev­ery bot­tle.”

TWEED & TWIN­SETS

For other brands, the Scot­tish name is so im­por­tant it fea­tures on ev­ery­thing they make. Pringle of Scot­land is a 200-year-old brand whose knitwear, twin­sets, cardi­gans and ar­gyle sweaters have clothed every­one from roy­alty to Hollywood icons, in­clud­ing Joan Craw­ford, Mar­got Fonteyn and Grace Kelly, but whose ori­gins still lie in the unas­sum­ing town of Haw­ick. Con­sid­ered one of the old­est lux­ury fash­ion brands in the world, Pringle of Scot­land is renowned for its cash­mere, its In­tar­sia ar­gyle pat­tern and its dis­tinc­tive ‘Pringle’ lion and re­mains a vi­tal part of the Scot­tish fash­ion world to this day. An­other An of Scot­land’s fa­mous ex­ports which whic owes its ori­gins to its land­scape is Har­ris Ha Tweed, which nearly died out in theth 1980s, when it fell out of favour with the fash­ion in­dus­try, but was saved from ex­tinc­tion by an Act of Par­lia­ment de­signed to en­sure its sur­vival. To­day it is pro­duced by sev­eral ex­pert com­pa­nies, all based in Scot­land, in­clud­ing Har­ris Tweed He­brides. All the com­pany’s wool is scoured and graded in the bor­ders of Scot­land, while lo­cal skills and crafts­men and women are used to turn the wool into yarn and the yarn into tweed. Mark Hog­a­rth re­calls the time when main­stream fash­ion houses started to re­turn to tweed. “It was ex­cit­ing to se­cure cus­tomers like Chanel and Dolce & Gab­bana, be­cause this re­asserted the sta­tus of Har­ris Tweed as a lux­ury prod­uct.” But, as Hog­a­rth ex­plains, lo­ca­tion isn’t ev­ery­thing, and there has to be a cre­ative and dy­namic force be­hind driv­ing Scot­tish brands into a global mar­ket. “The em­bers of the Scot­tish tex­tile in­dus­try are be­ing helped by the strong de­sign and mar­ket­ing skills of suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies like Walker Slater and John­stons of El­gin,” says Hog­a­rth. “With a con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to craft and graft we feel that there is a bright fu­ture for us, and com­pa­nies like us.”

FAM­ILY

Walker Slater is an ex­cel­lent tai­lor­ing firm based in Ed­in­burgh who has de­signed suits for the Ry­der Cup at Gle­nea­gles, while John­stons of El­gin, is a his­tor­i­cal fam­ily busi­ness with a fash­ion-for­ward name, which ex­pertly strad­dles the di­vide be­tween her­itage and mod­ern icon. Ear­lier this year, the brand pre­sented at Lon­don Fash­ion Week for the first time. “Ev­ery fi­bre, colour, weave struc­ture, knit tech­nol­ogy, stitch has been lov­ingly created in Scot­land from scratch,” ex­plains cre­ative di­rec­tor Alan Scott. In the two cen­turies fol­low­ing its es­tab­lish­ment in 1797, just two fam­i­lies – the John­stons and the Har­risons, have owned John­stons of El­gin. It is one of the last few ver­ti­cal mills in the UK still car­ry­ing out all the pro­cesses from raw cash­mere and fine woollen fi­bres, right through to the fin­ished prod­uct, and the com­pany’s mills in El­gin and Haw­ick em­ploy over 1000 peo­ple. “Our story is one of a fam­ily-run busi­ness

‟Be­ing a Scot­tish brand mat­ters to us, be­cause it’s wo­ven into ev­ery thread of the bags”

span­ning two cen­turies of tra­di­tion and ex­per­tise, and orig­i­nates and re­mains in the heart of Scot­land,” adds Scott. Fam­ily busi­nesses have al­ways been im­por­tant when you’re con­sid­er­ing her­itage names, and Walk­ers Short­bread is one fam­ily that has over a cen­tury of ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind it. Founded in 1898 in the pic­turesque vil­lage of Aber­lour, in the heart of the Scot­tish High­lands, Walk­ers Short­bread is still made by tra­di­tional meth­ods, us­ing the orig­i­nal 120-year-old Walker fam­ily recipe. Its dis­tinc­tive red tar­tan pack­ag­ing has made it recog­nis­able across the world, it has a Royal War­rant, and has been awarded the Queen’s Award to In­dus­try for Ex­port Achieve­ment four times.. “We believe that in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, be­ing Scot­tish is a cer­tainly an ad­van­tage,” says man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Jim Walker. “Scot­land has a rep­u­ta­tion for clean fresh air, pure wa­ter, beau­ti­ful sur­rounds and con­sci­en­tious peo­ple. Our prove­nance is also vi­tally im­por­tant - vir­tu­ally all of our raw ma­te­ri­als are from the UK and we al­ways source close to home.”

LO­CAL SKILLS

Work­ing with lo­cal crafts­men and women and sup­port­ing the an­cient mills is an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant part of be­ing a Scot­tish brand. The mills at one of Bri­tain’s most suc­cess­ful mod­ern cash­mere brands, Brora, were es­tab­lished over 200 years ago and have been em­ploy­ing lo­cal Scot­tish fam­i­lies for gen­er­a­tions. To this day, the mills make all the com­pany’s cash­mere – from dye­ing and spin­ning to weav­ing and knit­ting – which are sold through their stores in Ed­in­burgh, Glas­gow, St An­drews, Lon­don and New York. Vic­to­ria Sta­ple­ton, founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor of Brora, said: “Brora is not about fast fash­ion. The Scot­tish mills are ex­tremely spe­cial and the pro­cesses they painstak­ingly go through to pro­duce each cash­mere de­sign is ex­tra­or­di­nary. We are still small enough to deal with our Scot­tish mills per­son­ally and have built an out­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with them.” Alex Farmer at Trakke agrees that it is im­por­tant for brands to make sure they are do­ing more than just ben­e­fit­ting from Scot­land’s his­tory and rep­u­ta­tion, and that they’re giv­ing some­thing back. “We feel that by hir­ing a Scot­tish work­force, and us­ing Scot­tish ma­te­ri­als, it’s an op­por­tu­nity for us to rein­vest in a coun­try that has of­fered us so much.” Cru­cially, though, it must be the prod­uct that speaks for it­self, for even the most iconic of Scot­tish brand­ing must be backed up by qual­ity. “Scot­tish iden­tity is an as­set, but woe be­tide the com­pany who thinks that they can wrap their prod­uct in tar­tan and think it will sell – it’s what's in­side the pack that re­ally counts,” adds Jim Walker.

‟Brora is not about fast fash­ion. The Scot­tish mills are ex­tremely spe­cial”

Pic­tured above-left to bot­tom-right: Trakke work­shop in the heart of Glas­gow; Model wears Brora's Cash­mere Skinny Rib Jumper, priced £289

Pic­tured above left-below left: Model wears cash­mere hoody new in at Brora, priced £349; Model wears Lin­ton Boucle But­ton Mini dress Snow White, Le Kilt, priced £770; Walk­ers short­bread bis­cuits

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