LARGER THAN LIFE
Farming and fashion go hand-in-hand in Lochgelly, where Wendy Crawford’s House of Bluebell produces top quality tweed garments designed for larger ladies, finds Jamie Dey
Fashion houses are often associated with New York, Paris or London but a group of women are creating haute-couture at a Fife farm.
Wendy Crawford, the wife of a sheep and cattle farmer near Lochgelly, put a career as an IT trainer on hold to make use of textile and tailoring techniques to create bespoke tweed clothing.
Wendy saw a gap in the market for clothing for ‘curvaceous ladies’ because she couldn’t find top quality garments that fitted her. Now, after setting up House of Bluebell in her 50s, she is designing, making and selling clothing ranging from Tweed suits and trousers to accessories including scarves and pashminas.
‘I wanted to make clothes because of my shape,’ she said. ‘I wanted more natural fabrics. I knew from my childhood there were some beautiful fabrics, but they don’t seem to be available now.
‘Many fashion houses were doing less and less tweed. I am focusing on the fabric and turning it into a beautiful garment.’
The knowledge of tailoring stemmed from school for the three women who work with Wendy and her son, Philip, who is the design team manager.
The venture is an echo of Fife’s tradition of textile manufacture, based on linen and linoleum but also including garments.
Wendy wanted to make the garments 100% wool and although the fabric is sourced in Scotland, accessories such as zips are imported from Italy. Getting involved in the Scottish textile industry was something she was keen to do.
‘I felt that wool was not working in Scotland and the textile industry was not working in Scotland; from a farmer’s point of view we were not getting any money for our wool,’ she said.
‘For tailoring, we can’t do it all in Scotland – we take the best from around the world to make a Scottish product.’
The fabric comes from Macnaughton of Keith, in Moray, who have helped her develop a House of Bluebell tartan, a mixture of blues and greens with a small amount of burgundy and yellow. ‘Blair Macnaughton (the now-retired former head of the company) was a great inspiration and he encouraged me to get involved in the making of the fabric and the design,’ says Wendy. ‘We can’t fit everybody so we decided to tailor size 14 and upwards because that is my size and I know lots of people who are my size’.
But Wendy believes it is understandable that the high street does not supply larger sizes. ‘They just don’t cater for us,’ she said. ‘I don’t blame them because it is the young girl who buys that fashionable item of clothing. I’m looking to make clothes that will last because of the fabrics they are made out of.’
Top: Wendy Crawford surrounded by her tweed creations. Above: House of Bluebell create bags, jackets, scarves and pashminas from the finest Scottish tweeds.