Is There More to Scottish Fashion Than Tartan and Kilts?

There is no denying the huge contribution that Scotland has made to the modern world, and life as we know it. Penicillin, the Fridge, the telephone...hell even the TV! Yep, for a small nation we certainly punch above our weight.

But what about Fashion?

Scotland has a dynamic, creative and thriving fashion community, boasting a number of impressive places to study the industry. Herriot Watt University, Robert Gordon University and the prestigious Glasgow School of Art to name a few. Some of the biggest names in the game have hailed from Scotland. Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Louise Gray and more recently Glasgow's very own Charles Jeffrey sent shockwaves through the Fashion world with his debut show at London Fashion week.

So why is it... after all this, some people still think that all we have to offer Fashion is tartan? why does this unjust stereotype follow us around like a drunk playing the bagpipes? Well I have a controversial theory..... We do it to ourselves. As Scots, we are fiercely patriotic. But this can sometimes be to our own detriment. Scottish based Marketeers and PR's have a tendency to shout the loudest about 'REAL' Scottish labels. Brands specialising in Tartan, kilts and tweed often use the same tag line - 'a modern twist on a heritage technique'. But is it?! Is it modern? Did I miss the twist? As Scots, we know the world wants a slice of our unique culture, so we over indulge. We plaster our campaigns with images of the highlands, Saltire flags, and stag heads. I mean... Surely we can do better than that? Don't get me wrong. There are some incredible Scottish designers doing just that, and doing it well. 'Siobhan Mackenzie' creates outstanding luxury kilts, and breathtaking evening wear. 'Le Kilt' has enjoyed great success with a range of youthful and alternative tartan designs, even landing a best selling collaboration with ASOS.

Incase your wondering, I have nothing against tartan. It's a noble and ancient technique that should be preserved and protected for generations to come. But I think I would have more respect for a designer if they chose to do something different with the tradition. Took it forward in a way that showed respect for the craft, but pushed the boundaries into a new and exciting territory. Alexander McQueens provocative AW95 collection, bravely titled 'Highland Rape', used tartan, lace and dramatic staging, to tell the story of the English violation of Scottish culture and simultaneously payed homage to his Scottish heritage. Now that, was Tartan worth celebrating.

Right now, there are hundreds of Scottish designers, creating incredible fashion. From modern tailoring, to sequence and faux fur. You only have to flick through Social media to see the waves of Scottish talent, producing fantastic work, but the question is;

Is it a level playing field?

Until we understand there is more going on & loose the tartan blindfold, we will miss out on the wealth of talent bubbling away in front of our very own eyes.

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Images The V&A, Hero Magazine

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Mark holds down a senior role in a global fashion brand, and when he's not flying back and forward to his office in London he can be found in his home city of Glasgow. He says what we're all thinking.
Glasgow/London