Why Scottish Fashion Matters

Updated: May 10, 2018

Article orginally published on www.urbanity-blog.com

My biggest bug bare is that the ‘UK fashion industry’ is basically just the London fashion industry. All the media attention and government investment goes straight to the capital. All the events happen in London, even the Scottish Fashion Awards. All the talented Scottish graduates from amazing fashion courses in Scotland move to London because ‘there’s no jobs here’, but if everyone leaves, how can we create those jobs?  Read on to see the 5 reasons why I think Scottish Fashion is vitally important and should be celebrated and invested in.

History and Heritage

It’s no secret that Scotland has a rich textiles history. From Paisley being the global hub of the huge paisley shawl industry in the 19th century to the Isle of Harris world renowned for its signature tweed, from the Scottish Highlands supplying the finest wool and cashmere to the international industry, and the Scottish Borders hosting the cream of the crop in dyeing and finishing factories. Instead of heralding tartan as the only notable thing to come out of Scotland, why don’t we re-invigorate these lost crafts, bring jobs to previously thriving industrial towns, and celebrate our heritage not by regurgitating the same old tourist tat, but by using our historic resources and skills to carve a new path for Scottish fashion.

Creativity and talent

Just some of the names that have come out of Scotland in fashion design are Charles Jeffrey, the innovative young Glaswegian making waves worldwide with his club culture, gender fluidity inspired collections, Holly Fulton, the queen of kaleidoscopic print, Isolated Heroes – the paradise of sequins, glitter and all things fluffy, and Cats Brothers, the eclectic knitwear brand founded by Anna Wilkinson and Lindsay McKean. Lee McQueen and Vivienne Westwood, in my opinion, the two greatest fashion designers, also have strong connections to Scotland, as well as well-known fashion designers like Jonathan Saunders, Christopher Kane and Kestin Hare. Gifted photographers, stylists, editors, models, make-up artists and style icons flood the Scottish creative scene too, like Ellie Morag, Kirsty Halliday, Penny Martin, Simone Murphy, Sara Hill and Pam Hogg. We must be getting something right!

Media and Backers

Although the UK and global fashion media as a whole often seem to forget that Scotland exists, there are countless Scottish publications that champion our thriving creative scene, like independent cultural magazines Hope Street, Synzine and She is Fierce. Even more mainstream titles like i-on, The Skinny and The National newspaper are helping to spread the word, as well as bloggers like myself, The Quiet Resolution, Honey Pop Kisses, Forever Your’s Betty and Wardrobe Conversations. But we need more, so bloggers, journalists, writers, editors and influencers alike, I urge you to look within to find content that can truly make a difference. There are also some fantastic organizations in place that aim to support Scottish fashion designers, including The Scottish Design Exchange, Scotland Redesigned, Creative Scotland and Scot Street Style. I think the next step would be a proper Scottish Fashion Council, as the British Fashion Council again has a lack of awareness for the emerging fashion industry here.

Market and Retailers

Despite our main market for traditional Scottish fashion (think cashmere jumpers, hand-woven textiles, tweed suits, and tartan kilts) being international exports – mainly Asia, and of course some big Italian and French luxury houses (which is certainly no bad thing!) I truly believe that there is a community of people in the UK that with a little more encouragement could truly invest in fashion products actually designed and made here. We also have a huge range of independent retailers that are keen to support local brands, whether you’re in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh or beyond, and even if we start small, eventually the Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Dover Street Markets of the world will take notice.

Sustainability and Innovation

If we think of this new era of Scottish Fashion as a blank state, and imagine we are building a fashion industry from scratch – why would we copy what everywhere else does? We have an amazing opportunity here to do this the right way. Sustainability, ethics and the environment can be at the forefront of what we do. Rather than following in the (carbon) footprints of the global fast fashion giants and exploiting the people who make our clothes, we could create truly transparent, integrated supply chains that value honesty, integrety and authenticity, Scotland is known for its innovation and invention, so let’s put that passion towards, well, fashion!

My favorite Scottish designers and brands right now that are paving the way for a better fashion industry here in Scotland include Irina Gusakova, Barbra Kolasinski, Kelly Dawn Riot, Seinclln, Laura Ironside and Squint Clothing, although there are countless more. There are also hundreds of talented graduates coming from our brilliant art schools and fashion colleges including those collections from Edinburgh College of Art, Glasgow School of Art and Heriot-Watt University that I was thrilled to see at Graduate Fashion Week. My ones to watch from the Scottish graduate fashion scene include Ruth Williams, Polly Thomas and Max Wells Gray (ECA), Nancy Tulley, Hannah Tan and Nina Butler (GSA), and Alisa Watson, Amy Johnston and Chloe Lamdern (HWU).

by Ruth MacGilp