"You can take the designer out of Scotland, but can you take Scotland out of the designer?"
Are Scottish designers just desperate to negate the stereotype of 'tartan tat'?
The consensus was that Scottish and UK-based designers are embracing their heritage in different ways, celebrating other textiles like Harris Tweed and Scottish Cashmere because using tartan can feel like 'too much of a cliche'; despite being a go-to for stalwarts such as Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.
Meanwhile, Hilary loved SIOBHAN MACKENZIE'S new take on the kilt, using both tartan + silk paired with surface embellishments such as diamante and crystal; a radical reinvention of the form forging new ways (and new target markets) for the modern customer.
The message for Scottish designers was to 'embrace the heritage' of tartan, reinvent it, make it cool again.
As discussion turned to the changes in the industry, such as the mechanism for brands and studios to present their collections no longer reliant on a catwalk show at Fashion Week, the panel agreed Scotland has the edge over a city like London as a working base for new designers. Offering not only cheaper accommodation and studio rents in the city, Scotland also boasts bountiful rural spaces for creative reflection and inspiration leading to less chance of burn-out.
I particularly loved that Holly mentioned Grantown-on-Spey (in the Scottish Highlands) as her 'secret retreat', as it's also a place I know and love having spent my formative teenage years there (though at the time I'd happily have swapped it for London!).
"London is more inspiring and creative than Paris", Holly Fulton
As Alexander McQueen apparently once said: "there's more to Scotland than haggis and whisky".
And thanks to platforms like Scotland Re:Designed, Scotland feels like the place to be.
Juxtaposed with the industrial concrete warehouse vibe of the SWG3 Galvanizers exhibition space, I was able to spy the brands exhibiting as part of the event, ahead of the hypermarket that took place over the weekend.
This guy was ready for the cold-snap, dressed in scarves and hat by OLIVE PEARSON DESIGNS:
Everyone loved the bold, limited palette geometrics from JENNIFER KENT:
And the quirky, fun slogan knitwear and vibrant textures of CATS BROTHERS:
As a notorious magpie and maximalist, I was drawn to ISOLATED HEROES (as always), and wished I'd booked in for their weekend slogan-sweater-sequin workshop... next time.
With the fashion industry second only to oil in terms of world pollution, designers big and small need to consider the impact of their choices right through the supply chain.
James Lang from the Scottish Leather Group talked about the innovative ways they recycle old leather into energy to make more leather, and give the small off-cuts that would once have been landfill-bound, to designers who make items such as wallets, bags and purses to ensure 'zero waste' as far as possible.
Again the issue of 'investment fashion' rather than fast-fashion came up, and the morphing of the seasons to negate the need for the continuous treadmill of collections that not only contribute to a throw-away mentality, but also lead to burn-out and exhaustion for designers trying to 'do it all'.
All of these issues are important to consider behind the glitz and glamour of beautifully crafted fashion, and it was good to see them featuring so prominently on the (SCOTTISH) agenda.
I left the event brimming with ideas and inspiration for just how the change we seek is the change we choose to make, and how collaboration, asking questions and following your own ethical and moral compass are crucial components for success (alongside talent, persistence, patience...)
Here's a few final snippets of advice from the morning session with Hilary et al for budding fashion designers:
Always wear your own designs (where possible!) = self-promotion
Say 'NO' to Sale or Return - don't hold stock or bankroll someone else's business
Aim high and value yourself and your skills - from the start
Get attention, trial techniques, be clever with the materials available to you
...But don't do too many things - hone in on your niche
Scottish fashion, interiors and design is at the forefront of the industry and a truly exciting place to be. Having a platform such as Scotland Re:Designed to shine the spotlight on the enviable talent and innovation only makes it more exciting.
Scotland Re:Designed is the national organisation for fashion, accessories and interior designers, providing showrooms & exhibitions, annual awards and runway show calendar and stories, events and business support opportunities.