Member of the Moment
First up, can you tell me who you are, and a wee bit about your business?
I’m Olive - the designer-maker behind Olive Pearson Designs. I'm not very good at being out in front, preferring my designs to take centre stage! My first career was as a cartographer and when I moved back to Scotland, fulfilled a lifelong ambition to work in textile design, starting with my degree from the Glasgow School of Art. After trying a few different avenues I took the plunge to set up my own brand in 2015, designing and making bespoke and limited edition accessories for fashion and interiors.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Being self-employed and a sole-trader, I don’t have a typical day - while I do plan what I’m going to every day, one of the things I love about my job is the variety and unpredictability. Some days are ‘normal’ and I work through everything on my to-do list, from knitting, washing, pressing and finishing to admin and designing. Others end up dealing with whatever comes up unexpectedly, from urgent orders to last minute applications for opportunities. Generally my days are split seasonally with making, exhibiting and trade fairs in the winter, and researching, planning and designing in the spring / summer.
Where does your passion for the industry stem from?
A love of pattern, colour and geometry - my introduction to spirograph as a kid probably started my love of design and repeat pattern. My work is a constant exploration of the way patterns play with perceptions and perspective.
Did you study? Where?
I studied for a Geography and Cartography at Glasgow University, then textile design as a mature student at the Glasgow School of Art.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
My unique designs - I haven’t run out of inspiration yet! Also the complimentary comments I get about my use of colour - wonderful, confidence building feedback when you’re working on your own. I recently collaborated with Craft Design House, creating two bespoke Mackintosh inspired designs for them that were displayed at the Mackintosh exhibition at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum earlier this year.
I’m still very proud of my degree collection that was inspired by man-hole covers - and still refer to the many source images I have from then for new designs, like HEX.
Who are the influential figures you look up to for inspiration?
I especially admire the work of Thomas Heatherwick, Zaha Hadid, Sean Scully and Brigid Riley.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for the near future?
I’ve just completed the first phase of the Aural Textiles project culminating in the ‘Tangible Sounds’ exhibition in Forres, funded by RSE and GSA. As one of a group of 6 textile designers we were looking at sound as inspiration for textile designs. We are hoping to expand the project and tour the exhibition if successful in the next round of funding.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The variety and the independence. If I get bored or am not in the right frame of mind for one task - there’s ALWAYS something else to do, or I can go for a walk or visit a coffee shop as a sort of re-boot, as long as I don’t have an imminent deadline.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career so far and how could it be avoided?
Not having the confidence to apply for opportunities or funding. Learn to just go for it, there really isn’t anything to lose.
What does your workspace look like?
I’ve just moved so it’s currently a bit disorganised - but once I’m fully unpacked I look forward to working in a lovely bright, white space - including the floor.
Who is your design inspiration?
More a what than a who! Everything around me - there is so much inspiration in both the natural and man-made worlds with many patterns repeated in both. My stripe pattern for this winter is inspired by the humble zip.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t stress if you’re not selling at an event: think of it as an advert for your work and an opportunity to engage with customers and get valuable feedback.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
There could be much advertising of services from local / Scottish suppliers with smaller scale manufacturing facilities. It's surprising how few of them get back to you when you contact them.
Any final thoughts?
Would love to see more support for small businesses that wish to grow but still remain small and true to their ethics. I’m passionate about slow-fashion and zero waste. It’s a shame that success and growth seems to be measured by the amount you export and number of employees you can take on. While not trying to build an empire, I still want to provide a ‘service’ for like-minded clients who care about quality, integrity, service, ethical practices, value for money, with well made products that last a lifetime rather than a season.
Find Olive Pearson Designs online:
website / instagram / twitter / facebook
Hello, I’m Maggie Mowbray. I established Maggie Mowbray Millinery in 2012 and create luxury millinery for clients around the world from my workroom just south of Edinburgh. I have a studio in the centre of Edinburgh where I meet clients wanting to try designs or discuss bespoke options. My range includes hats for the races, such as Royal Ascot, special occasion hats and daywear, such as trilbies and berets. I design, create and hand finish each design.
Every day is different, but usually begins with seeing my girls off to school, a run or walk with my dogs before I begin work at 9am; it’s the best commute ever! If it’s a workroom day, I’ll be answering emails, updating the website, making calls, updating social media, designing new collections and a multitude of other things not all in that order before beginning work on customer orders. I tend to finish around 4pm to spend time with my family. Other days, I am in the studio in Edinburgh, meeting clients.
Millinery is a perfect mix of fashion and art. I wanted to study fashion for many years before changing my mind at 17 and studying fine art, so millinery to me feels like a good balance of the two in my life!
Maggie Mowbray Millinery
I studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art; my degree is in Fine Art, not Design, as people generally think. However I think having a fine art background has helped me to visualise and sculpt my designs, it’s a little bit like sketching in 3D.
My business! It has taken a lot of hard work, and been a huge learning curve but I now have a successful business, which I created from scratch and as a result can spend my working life doing something I love.
Philip Treacy, might seem an obvious one for a milliner, but he does create beautiful work; works of beautiful wearable art.
A Philip Treacy creation photographed by Kai Cem Narin
I have a wonderful project over the next few months, with another designer on a very Scottish themed collection, it is going to be a big project which will see my designs travelling the globe, so watch this space.
I enjoy the variety in my job. Some days I am meeting customers, others I am working on my website or organising a fashion shoot, I get to meet lots of different people and be creative in whichever way I choose.
I’m quite spontaneous sometimes and don’t always think decisions through, so I’ve not made any major mistakes but some that have cost me time or money that I should have spent more time thinking about. I now make myself take more time over ideas and big decisions.
I like to describe it as creative mess! It is the artist in me, always experimenting with different fabrics and feathers etc.
I don’t have a ‘who’ but I have many ‘what’s’. I am inspired by nature mostly, flowers and shapes in nature, my last collection was inspired by birds of paradise. Architecture and art have also inspired collections in the past.
Image cc Debora Tingley via Unsplash
Sleep on it! Sometimes, I can be quite hard on my ideas and myself, things always seem better after a good nights sleep.
I am excited when presented with new fabrics to work with. I recently bought some eco fabrics made from cork, which I am looking forward to experimenting with.
Find Maggie Mowbray online:
website / twitter / instagram / facebook
My name is Lucy MacDonald and my company is called Arra Textiles, named after my great grandmother, Arra MacDonald, who was born and brought up on Orkney and passed her love of textiles on to me. My first collection was launched in 2016 at New Designers, One Year On with a small collection of handwoven, bespoke throws and cowl scarves. For the first 18 months I worked from home before moving into a dedicated studio space on a nearby local estate last summer.
Each day is different for me and depends on which stage of the design and making process I am at. Before starting a collection I build a theme using photographs of colours and textures I find in the natural world, along with coordinating yarn shades and structures. I design my woven patterns from scratch using traditional techniques combined with a modern floor loom to create contemporary and engaging designs. Once I decide on yarn shades, quality, and the pattern, I begin to make the warp. Each warp is different from the last and is made up of hundreds of individual threads in a specific colour pattern. Each thread is wound onto a spool which is then wound by hand onto a beam at the back of the loom. Once the beam is full, each warp end is threaded in a specific design pattern through a heddle, then through a metal reed at the front of the loom. Once the warp ends are tied on in sections at the front of the loom, the weaving can begin! My loom is a hybrid of traditional and modern technologies. A computer box controls the shafts with a foot pedal to lift them as they are so heavy. I use a traditional fly-shuttle system and manual beater to weave the cloth, and can weave around one metre every two hours depending on the design. Once I have finished weaving the fabric, I cut it off the loom and take it home to hand wash and press. Each piece is hand-sewn either by myself in the studio or by Kalopsia Collective in Edinburgh, for bigger orders, before being finished with an Arra Textiles label and tag. Setting the loom up can take up to 60 hours, dependent on the design, and each collection or commission takes on average three months to complete.
With the textile industry being the second largest polluter in the world, sustainability is one of the most important aspects of my practice. I strive to produce as little waste material as possible by using every last scrap of material and reselling any yarn cone ends.I always use natural yarns to weave with; be it Alpaca, Cashmere, British Lambswool or Merino Wool. The majority of the yarn I use is sourced in Britain; designed in the Scottish Borders then spun and dyed at a mill in Yorkshire. Traceability is an important factor in my work and I try to use materials which reflect this ethos as much as I can. I use 100% renewable energy sources in the studio and consider the environmental impact of each stage of design, production and marketing. With my Zero-Waste production policy and emphasis on traditional craftsmanship, I am passionate about producing work which will become timeless heirlooms to be enjoyed for generations to come, before biodegrading naturally at the end of its lifespan.
Before launching Arra Textiles I studied Design for Textiles at Heriot Watt University for four years during which, I was chosen to take part in an Erasmus exchange to study at Turku University of Applied Sciences in Finland for a semester of my third year. After graduating I worked for a range of different companies, from large corporate businesses to independent studios before deciding to find a loom and set up on my own!
I’m most proud of the fact that within two years, I’ve been able to take Arra Textiles to the point where it is paying for itself and providing enough income that I can make it my full time job. When I first launched the business I was worried that there wouldn’t be a large market for pieces produced using a heritage craft skill. However, I think that recently there has been a huge resurgence not only in hand-weaving and craft-based practices, but also in consumer appreciation and awareness of sustainably-made products and how they can impact the environment through their shopping habits.
I don’t think that there are any people in particular that I look up to for inspiration, but I like to follow other businesses that have started out small and whose practice focuses on a craft finding success on a national scale. I think it’s important that heritage skills are celebrated and it’s great to see so many other designer makers creating sustainable businesses based around something they love.
I have a commission coming up to weave fabric to upholster the interior of a 1974 VW T2 Campervan. It’s very different to anything I’ve designed for before but I’ve been given a lot of freedom with the colour choices and pattern and can’t wait to see the finished project! I’ve also begun to develop a limited range of accessory products to sell though galleries and shops, something I’ve not done before now.
I love the fact that I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself and can work as fast or slowly as I feel. I have so much freedom that even with all of the stresses and paperwork that comes with running a business I wouldn’t swap it for anything!
I think my biggest mistake also turned out to be the best thing I could have done. Two years after graduating University I was struggling to find a job that I was really passionate about and enjoyed, so I decided that rather than work for someone else maybe I should just set up my own business. After months of deliberation, I moved back home, bought a brand new £18,000 weaving loom from America using all of my savings, the rest of my student loan and also a little help from family. Straight after, it felt like it was the biggest mistake I could have made. The loom took 9 months to be built and during that time I constantly worried that I’d done the wrong thing and would be stuck living at home again, but this time with a very expensive piece of machinery. In the end it was the best mistake I could have made, and all the time spent worrying about it and whether it was the right choice was worth it. I’m not sure that it could have been avoided really, I think that it was actually more of an opportunity than I realised at the time and pushed me to throw everything into making Arra Textiles what it is now, and hopefully what it will become in the future!
I have a small studio in Kincardine O’Neil, the oldest village on Royal Deeside, where I have my AVL dobby floor loom, lots of cones of yarn and an area to display my work. Since it’s so compact, I have to be quite neat and tidy when working. I like having an organised work space and I take lots of notes as I work to keep track of what I’m doing. The studio is open 11pm - 4pm, Wednesday to Saturday from September to January and then by appointment the rest of the year; so customers are able to come in and see how everything is made and buy pieces from the collection.
I’m inspired by all sorts of people and things. Colour is very important to me when designing new work and I love finding other artists using a similar range of blues and greens. I have a painting on my studio wall by Australian illustrator Marc Martin which is full of inky blue seas, stormy skies and a tiny orange boat. It reminds me that design should be fun and that I’m creating pieces for people to enjoy and have as part of their everyday lives.
To take my time and not rush through things. I want my business to grow organically, at a steady rate that I can keep up with. I’ve become better at saying no to certain things or delaying projects until I know I am able to fulfil them properly. I think this has helped me to grow the business to the stage it’s at now without getting stressed or feeling out of my depth at any point. By taking my time before launching the business, I was able to start off with a strong foundation with practical elements such as a business name, logo and website. This also gave me time to figure out a clear design signature and identity within the industry.
For a while now I’ve been trying to find a sustainable and ethical supplier of yarn to work with. I’d like to use 100% traceable yarns, dyed without producing chemicals harmful to the environment, but so far it’s been difficult to find a reliable source.
Find Arra Textiles online:
website / twitter / instagram / facebook
I am Joan Johnson. I formed Bespoke Fabrics in 2016, to offer creative and commercial support to both emerging and established brands. With specialist experience in the global luxury market, I have clients across Scotland and the UK.
My passion for the industry has come from the product and the people. Having worked in the premium end of the textile business for over 25 years, I am passionate about what we make in this country. From Irish linen (Spence Bryson), to English woven silk (Stephen Walters) to Scottish cashmere (Johnstons of Elgin) wonderful produce has been at the centre of my creative journey. Rarely have I had to compromise on quality, even when pushed to meet a given margin.
Fortunate to have worked with numerous talented, inspiring people both as colleagues and customers, the journey from Designer to Manager to Director has been influenced by many along the way. In the last three years, I have worked with a diverse range of people in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England; supporting them on their creative paths. Recognising the value of our resources and developing a more sustainable future, I have also been developing a number of textile products with a Circular Economy approach.
I have a First Class Honours Degree in Textile Design from Loughborough. Whilst I was working in my early 30’s I completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management and more recently completed my MA in Design Management at Northumbria University. Whether through study or experience, I never stop learning.
There are many proud moments, but I guess one which always stands out was becoming the first female Board Director of Stephen Walters (a 300 year old company) at the age of 32, in an industry that has been and continues to be male dominated at a senior level.
Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, from people who I have known from my English teacher at school – who transformed my lack of interest in Thomas Hardy to achieving an A in English Literature; to books such as “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers (a mantra I use with my kids all the time); to industry creative influences such as the ultimate brand Hermes, who will not launch a product until it is absolutely perfect.
This is a super exciting time right now, as I have developed a new sustainable textile product which will be launched into the market later this year. The last year has been particularly rewarding as the project was supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Climate-Kic out of Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) and more recently through Unlocking Ambition, the new entrepreneurial programme launched by Scottish Government.
The freedom to operate without restrictions, connecting with people and achieving key milestones as the product has developed.
My work space is full of bundles of stuff, from fibre to fabric samples, books to prints and recent product development.
One particular occasion I can think of is when I didn’t have the balls to say what I really thought, a learning experience which means next time will be different!
My design inspiration comes from a range of sources. I love seeing new textile talent at New Designers. The London Design Festival is a must do for all things design. Visuals on Pinterest and unusual colour combinations found in random places - I take pictures all the time with the “Stop The Car” moments driving my family nuts!
I would say there are three pieces of advice that have stuck with me
1. Read Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And influence People”.
2. Employ people who are better than you.
3. Leave toxic people behind.
Continued support in product development, as well as a genuine willingness to address change. Having worked with some truly inspirational Scottish companies in a diverse range of sectors, I’ve seen new ways of working such as “Hey Girls” addressing period poverty in the UK. As a social enterprise, for every pack they sell, they give one pack away. Celia Hodson who set the company up, pays all her staff the same wage, so transparency is at the heart of the business. As the company grows all the staff benefit. Business models such as these could prove to be transformational across not just textiles but industry as a whole!
Across many sectors, Scotland is leading the way in supporting innovation. Inspiring people are emerging and new businesses are being set up disrupting traditional ways of working. It is such an exciting time to be a part of this, particularly in the textile sector and it will be fascinating to see how these innovative ideas and practices cascade into the more traditional sectors.
Find Bespoke Fabrics online:
website / facebook
Watch the interview with Joan Johnston on Unlocking Ambition.
Highland Natural Accents is a retail business located in the We Frame It gallery in Portree on the Isle of Skye. HNA exists to help you be your own interior designer or wardrobe stylist with the vibrant textiles we offer. Highland Natural Accents sources textiles primarily from Scottish makers and artists. Depending upon the maker, the textiles can be derived from local mills or are spun, loomed or knitted by hand. Made of natural or up-cycled fibres, we provide high-quality finished textiles of home accessories and fashion, allowing you to own a unique part of Scotland and beyond in remembrance of your travels in Skye.
I am Leslie Foale, owner and creator. After making my 30th move in my lifetime, I decided to not only change my personal life but also my professional life. With Scotland being my new home, I began exploring different avenues of possible work. In 2016, I attended Scotland’s Spring Trade Fair in Glasgow. Seeing the talent and artistry of exhibitors at this venue was amazing. This incentivised me to combine my 30 years of practical business experience with my passion for quality textiles and craftsmanship to create my own business. In spring of 2016, Highland Natural Accents was founded.
HNA is a professional focus for me as an entrepreneur and artist. Creating a new business from scratch challenges my knowledge, skills and ability to adapt quickly. Through HNA Associated Makers, the makers / artists supplying finished textiles to Highland Natural Accents, I learn a great deal about wool, design, weaving, knitting and the mechanics of producing such products. After a five-week experience at the Global Yell studio in Shetland learning how to weave, I decided that weaving would become my speciality as an artist and maker. From this discovery, Skye Textiles was established (a business arm of Highland Natural Accents).
I do my best to support local textile makers through the business of Highland Natural Accents. These makers / designers incorporate nature’s beauty from the islands, highlands and beyond through their fibres, textures, patterns and colours to create hand crafted artefacts. In turn, visitors and others who are involved with Highland Natural Accents support local businesses, as well as enhance the trend of the rejuvenation of the local textile industry.
After hopefully a good night’s sleep, I start the day with some exercise (swimming, rowing, or bicycling), to then start the work day. During High Season when the majority of tourists visit Skye, most of my time is attending to international travellers’ needs. After checking and responding to emails, I can be addressing several aspects of existing projects or operational matters, or work in the front of the Gallery of We Frame It, where Highland Natural Accents operates its retail business.
Operational matters may include orders to be made (analysing stock and historical sales to determine what products to order depending upon the supplier), following up with placed orders (some orders are not fulfilled at once but provided to HNA in portions, depending upon the maker’s ability to have available stock and/or make the products to order), or addressing the financial aspects of the business (i.e., ensure payments of orders are scheduled, analyse cash flow, understand current expenditures).
When I work in the gallery of We Frame It, I address both Highland Natural Accents and We Frame It customer needs. This work ranges from determining and fulfilling a specific customer’s request of an item, providing customised framing services, or replenishing stock after the customers have made their purchases. And then there are also the daily operations of making the businesses run smoothly.
During High Season, the Gallery is open seven days a week; Monday through Friday 9 – 7 and weekends 10-6. Thus, I tend to work 12 – 14 hour days with maybe one day off in a month during this peak time of the year. It is full on.
After High Season, it is time for strategising. A typical day can include researching industry news, understanding what products and colours were most popular for HNA, analysing sales to forecast estimated annual spend per maker, and forecasting next year’s budget for HNA. Talks and/or visits with suppliers help maintain clear communication and understanding of each other’s needs for current and future business.
As a young girl, I liked working with my hands. This guided me as to which hobbies I chose. My grandmother and mother taught me different crafts, including needlework, crocheting and sewing. I also studied music by playing the flute and piccolo. As an adult, I chose a stable career in finance to make a living. But I always found opportunities to design and create on the side. This includes designing my own jewellery and business suits, welding, sculpting, helping others with their wardrobe or home décor selections, and seeking opportunities to practice photography, especially when travelling.
Having moved to Scotland for personal reasons, I channeled this new chapter in my life into an opportunity to pursue a long-lived desire to create my own business. Choosing textiles as my business focus was a logical step given my artistic background.
My formal education was obtained in the US. In 1988, I received a Bachelor’s of Science dual degree in Finance and Marketing at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management in Syracuse, New York. After four years working in the personal consulting and investment banking industries on the East Coast, I moved to San Diego, California to obtain my Master of International Business degree at the University of San Diego’s International Business School.
In February and March 2017, I began the learning about the process of how to weave through the members of Global Yell in Shetland. This opened a new door for me. Weaving to me is a logical combination of music (the sound of the shuttle creating the weft by hand and the warp being shifted), maths, and artistry.
I am most proud of being able to combine and apply skills, talent and ability to create a new business, while helping other small businesses and individuals. Finding purpose of giving back is what drives me to make Highland Natural Accents successful. The analytical discipline instilled in my first career resulted in a means towards this next step – building a new business. My background and business acumen has led me to be an architect, artist, entrepreneur, and mentor.
Family members and artists have given me much inspiration and hope. Specifically, my grandparents and parents provided me the seeds and soil to grow my ideas. In addition, my husband has provided me the platform to create and build a strong foundation for Highland Natural Accents. Artists and makers whom I work with to provide an array of textile selections for our customers are also a great inspiration to me.
There are two main projects which I am working on for Highland Natural Accents:
1) Skye Textiles, and
2) establishing an independent location for Highland Natural Accents.
Skye Textiles is a recently developed business arm of Highland Natural Accents. It provides me an outlet to design and create woven textiles. I began the process of designing a throw in the spring of 2017. This process has evolved into producing a limited edition collection of throws for 2018. Currently, I am working on Skye Textiles’ 2019 limited edition collection of throws. In addition, Skye Textiles is taking its next step to expand its products. Given customer requests in the last year at the Portree gallery, I have begun to work on new woven products which are targeted to be ready for retail consumption next year. Skye Textiles focus is to provide exclusive finished textiles woven in Scotland and hand finished in Skye. The development of Skye Textiles is a methodical work-in-progress that will evolve organically in its own time.
In the near future, Highland Natural Accents is to successfully establish its own independent retail store. Highland Natural Accents has been given an advantage through We Frame It to establish and grow its physical retail presence through the We Frame It galleries. After two years in operation, HNA has grown and arrived at a stage which it needs to properly brand itself and maximise growth.
A new retail space in Portree will be available to Highland Natural Accents within the next year or so. Highland Natural Accents’ objective is to remain and have sole presence in Portree with its retail operations. Once this new retail space has been finalised, Highland Natural Accents will be able to create an exclusive image for its brand and expand its selection of high-quality textiles.
A favourite aspect of my new career is creating happy moments for others. You see that sparkle in the customer’s eye or hear that wee giggle they can't manage to contain because the textile they just saw makes them feel so happy. You know then that the textile will remind them of that moment, time and time again, when they use it.
In addition, I enjoy helping artists make their business better in some way. The result can be increased efficiencies and/or profitability for them.
The biggest mistake I have made in my professional career is not starting my own business sooner. Over time, I have learned that fear is lack of knowledge. You cannot gain knowledge unless you try, and sometimes fail, at doing whatever. The key – do not fear failure.
My workspace is anywhere and in my head. Laptop, iPad, mobile and camera with lenses are in backpacks, always ready to go. The most permanent space I have is the retail and storage space at the We Frame It gallery. The day when Highland Natural Accents opens its own doors for business will be very exciting one, indeed.
I was born in Venezuela and brought up on the East Coast of the United States. I have travelled in various countries of five out of the seven continents of the world. Different cultures influence and inspire me – Japanese discipline, Chinese inventiveness, Spanish / Latin American vitality, Turkish vivaciousness. A trip to Turkey in my mid-20’s inspired me to not be afraid to mix all sorts of colours and textures together. Family teachings and exposure to New York City gave me the foundation of recognising high-quality workmanship, being open to a variety of ideas, and understanding great contrasts. It is the mixture of these experiences, cultures and places that influence my designs.
Go with your gut instinct; it is your best mentor.
I thirst for knowledge about current events and forecasted trends in the local textile industry. As I move forward with Highland Natural Accents and become more specialised and focused, I will continue to seek resources for materials, designs and talent from the textile and other industries.
Know where you stand with your cash. Take calculated risks. Build good memories for you and others.
Find Highland Natural Accents online:
website / twitter / facebook
Hello, I’m Flora Collingwood-Norris. I started Collingwood-Norris in 2016 and now create luxury colourful knitwear from my studio in Galashiels. The range includes scarves, hats, reflector pom hats, fingerless mitts, and jumpers. I design, knit, and hand finish each piece myself, and try to bring out the best in the natural fibres that I love using, especially lambswool.
I don’t really have a typical day! I do whatever needs doing - often that involves knitting at some point, but sometimes my days are more about customer service, emails, finishing, labelling, packaging… there are so many different things that I have to do in a day! They all start with taking my dog, Stitch, for a walk though, and there’s always an afternoon walk too, I’m very lucky to be surrounded by beautiful countryside, and it’s important to get out of the studio every now and then.
I’m still learning about it - it always keeps me interested. I’m happiest when I’m knitting, and love all forms of it; from hand knitting, knitting on my hand frame knitting machines, or exploring what can be achieved on the digital machines. I still feel really lucky to be able to work in an industry that fascinates me so much.
Yes, I studied Textiles at Heriot-Watt University, specialising in knit. That’s where I learned to use knitting machines, hand frames and Shima. Before that I did a foundation art course at Leith School of Art in Edinburgh, which gave me a great creative base to start from.
What I’m doing right now. There are a few things I’m proud of: some crochet pieces that were challenging to make for clients when I was still working freelance, and I’m still proud of my graduate collection, but starting my own label is the most exciting, challenging thing I’ve done, and the most rewarding. Every day I’m working for myself is a massive achievement.
I’m very inspired by my friend Anna Skodbo, founder and designer of phannatiq, an ethical clothing company based in London. She is passionate about ethical fashion, and has made her business as transparent as possible, showing the journey of her sustainable clothing from fabric manufacture through to the end product. Anna's integrity and passion constantly inspire me.
I’m currently working out how best to take the business forward, and there’s a collaboration on the horizon, so watch this space.
This is a hard question, because what I think what I love is the full process, from designing and making something through to seeing someone wearing the finished piece.
Hm, probably taking on some bespoke work, which wasn’t right for my business and was time consuming without being very rewarding. I’m now being very firm with myself, and I’m not saying yes to absolutely everything anymore!
It’s a light room, with two large desks that are normally covered in yarn, knitting in progress, labels and general stuff, and there are boxes of yarn wherever there is space for them! I have two knitting machines set up all the time, and a big comfy chair that Stitch tends to use it as her bed during the day.
I’m very inspired by landscapes around me, and colours I see, particularly on the West Coast of Scotland. I have a section of my studio wall that’s covered in things I like and that inspire me - there’s a lot of Islamic / Middle Eastern art and tiling, some old Kenzo by Antonio Marras, some Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Leon Bakst, interesting places from my travels and colourful postcards I’ve collected over time - inspiration comes from a wide range of places and people!
"Measure twice, cut once."
More eco-effective designs and materials, more transparency, and skill sharing. There are exciting times ahead if we could lead the way for these.
Find Collingwood-Norris online:
website / instagram / twitter / facebook
Kalopsia was established in 2012 by British / Swedish duo, Adam Robertson & Nina Falk. Kalopsia began as a textiles and design organisation to challenge the way textiles was seen. We began everything by asking the question; "What are textiles?"
Today, Kalopsia operates as a Social Enterprise in Edinburgh’s busy creative and cultural port, Leith, with the aim to batch manufacture textiles products more ethically and sustainably in Britain.
A typical day for us usually involves lots of cutting and making of products, drinking lots of coffee, and heated discussions with the team and interns over lunch (mostly regarding fashion trends and ethics in textiles). As many of our clients are actually based in London, we often have a lot of Skype meetings and phone calls throughout the day and while this is happening there is always at least three machinists manufacturing in the background. We like to think that the general feeling of our micro-manufacturing space is positive, relaxed and welcoming, though often quite noisy with all the machines and music!
Our passion has always been there; we started the business to address the challenges we were facing as freelance designers. We care about the services we provide as these are services that we needed when we started out. The ethical and sustainable aspects of what we do came in later, but once we had seen the true extent of these issues we knew we had to do something about them. This further fuelled our passion and drove us to make more conscious decisions about how we produce.
Kalopsia’s three directors have a mixed and varied background, with degrees ranging from Textiles at Norwich University of the Arts, Textiles Design at Osaka Seikei University Faculty of Art and Design in Japan, Fashion Tailoring and Design in Stockholm, to Illustration at ECA and Custom design in Bristol. We are a real mixed bag which is great and means we always have broad wealth of knowledge to tackle projects and challenges.
This year we were shortlisted for “Manufacturer of the Year.” This was a huge honour for us and it was truly amazing to be recognised that this level. In 2016 we hosted the launch of the Scottish Government Circular Economy strategy in our work space ‘The Facility.’ This was a also a huge honour and we were so pleased to be part of the launch of such an important initiative.
Another thing that we are very proud of is some of the more creative projects we have been asked to be part of such as making and designing costumes for the international circus performance group Gynoïdes circus female intelligentsia.
We don’t particularly have a figure that we look up to but rather organisations and collectives that excite us and push us to do more. Some of the key ones includes Svenskt Tenn, Bauhaus and The Vkhutemas Arts School. All of which have sustainable, mindful and utilitarian production at their core.
We will soon start working on an order for a newly opening design museum in Scotland (but we can't say anymore about this yet...). We also have a fashion shoot coming up in Stockholm for our new additions to the Assemble collection. The shoot will feature the print works of a range of British Designers.
We are really lucky that we get to work with a huge variety of both British and international textiles creators, and turn their fabrics into ethically and sustainable commercial products made here in Scotland. There is something truly inspiring about the range and depth of materials we get to work with. From print to weave and knit, we work with some fantastic creators and businesses.
When we first opened up our manufacturing services, we were very eager to please and would often find ourselves taking on work that wasn’t appropriate for us to be doing. This put a huge amount of pressure on us and created some very tense relationships with some clients. The key thing we think you need to do to avoid this is to be clear and firm about what you can and can’t produce, both when you are working with clients but also in your media and branding. Be excited and positive about what you can do and never be afraid to turn down work that you know isn’t right for you. It can take a while to get that message right but once you do, it will completely transform the way you work with clients and will free up a great deal of your time.
Kalopsia is based in Leith, Edinburgh's unofficial creative quarter; located on the Firth of Forth, in the North of the city. Our micro-manufacturing space is in a industrial estate just off New Haven Road where we produce all Assemble products. Our small but efficient production space is fairly traditionally laid out with cutting tables, industrial machines, heat presses. Where is differ from more conventional manufacturers is in the construction of our systems around the manufacturing. We are always looking for the most effective way to manufacture products as well as handle orders and client relationships, which means the look and feel of our space is continuously evolving and improving as the business develops.
The inspiration for the style of our print designs comes primarily from constructivism and abstraction. We have both always been really excited by those modernist mid-century ideas and colour palettes. The imagery for our latest print collection ‘Konstrukt’ (which is available to buy by the meter from BeFab Be Creative) was inspired by Leith scenery. Primarily the dock lands, and industrial areas.
The Assemble products on the other hand have been more inspired by Nordic design. We really love the minimal and utilitarian feel of a lot of Scandinavian design. Balancing design with functionality and effective use of fabric is always of real importance to us, and we were also really mindful that as we moved into producing apparel that we didn’t want to create any garments that would exclude anyone because of size or body shape, so we intentionally created a collection with simple, classic shapes that we knew would complement a wide range of people.
We once got a very blunt and very true piece of advice from a business mentor of ours after we had another company steal our logo and branding and refuse to change it - “Don’t let people you do not respect upset you.” It sounded brutal to us at the time but we very quickly realised how right she was. We all should spend more time work on the positive, exciting things we are doing and not let the ourselves get dragged into the negative aspects of what we do.
We are lucky in this respect, as what we have been pushing for from the textiles industry for many years is beginning to happen! We are starting to see a greater shift towards more thoughtful and conscious ways of producing products and design. We are delighted to see an increased focus on the environmental and social impact of what we collectively produce as an industry. We are also so proud to see Scottish companies leading the way in many of these fields and discussions and hope that we can continue to push for solutions and be the world leaders in how we tackle them.
Find Kalopsia Collective online:
My Name is Martin Scroggie and I own luxury contemporary menswear brand MG Gabriel.
My day usually starts with me heading in to the studio for 8:30/9am, and it usually depends on what’s happening at the time. Recently I’ve been looking over last nights’ progress to see what needs to be completed. I’m currently manufacturing a new collection so testing the complicated parts of the garment so they are correct and fit and amending on the patterns so they can be signed off. Then I go through the process of cutting and prepping the garment before sewing. Depending on what stage I’m at with the collection, each day follows from when the last stage I left it at. I also try to make sure I do some social media and check my emails too, so by that time it’s about 9pm.
I guess I would have to say it comes from observing the success of other designers past and present; looking at their achievements and aspiring to have a similar success. I had some family and have so many friends in the fashion industry. Their success and achievements have always spurred me on. My story won’t hold exactly the same successes and achievements as theirs, but it gives me the passion to go to the next stage of my career.
Yes I started my studies at, then, Cardonald College. I then moved to London to study at London College of Fashion. After that I worked in the industry for four years, and moved back to Glasgow in 2010 to start my Masters at Glasgow School of Art in 2011.
Starting MG Gabriel. It was something I had always thought about when I started but I never thought I could do until I had gained the experience. Since starting up it’s been a joy to go to work. The part I’m proud about is taking that thought as a teenager and actually creating the brand years later.
In the past it’s been eccentric designers like Galliano, Gualtier, Viktor & Rolf, and Westwood; then I found interest in designers like the Antwerp 6. I still find these fashion figures inspirational but I’ve also found people like Bill Cunningham and Iris Apfel inspirational due to their outlook and unique approach to style and recognising it.
I'm currently looking for manufacturing, trade shows, or shows to showcase at. I'm also looking for stockists. Moving from being a bespoke tailor-made brand, to having stockists outside the studio is exciting for me. It’s a change in direction and a positive change for the brand.
Being able to design, create and see people wearing my clothes. Also I love meeting other designers and sharing experiences and information with them.
Holding back and not taking enough chances. I used to miss opportunities because of that. It’s something I’m changing in myself for the better and I’ve learned to approach people more and ask questions and get feedback.
What does your work space look like?
Right now? A creative organised mess. Well my area of the studio is. I share a studio at the Fashion Foundry with five other designers - so in the middle of a new collection it means that there is a lot of paper, various patterns and fabric over my desk. I have a timeline on the wall with a checklist of things completed and things to do, along with a George Michael calendar for motivation. The rest of the studio is maintained better however which is ironic.
I always think that inspiration is limited by the inspired. I don’t think there has been one person of design inspiration that I’ve gravitated towards. There have been so many and not just in fashion. For me, there’s always an opportunity to be inspired by many forms of design and designer.
Do things at your pace and when you feel the time is right.
Advice, support, information and be part of a good strong network of people.
Just always do something you feel passionate about. You find yourself gravitating and surrounding yourself with the people who share that passion and it becomes encouraging.
Find MG Gabriel online:
Hello, my name is Jessica Giannotti. I’m an Italo-Venezuelan designer living in bonnie Scotland. I founded Crùbag in Dec 2013 after finishing my studies in marine science.
We are an emerging design studio based at an old teaching marine laboratory at the Scottish Marine Institute near Oban in Argyll. We are dedicated to producing colourful luxury textiles inspired by the oceans and science. We love sustainability, craftsmanship and the sea so we combined the three!
Our product range includes scarves, foulards, pocket squares, bow ties, napkin sets and cushions. We only work with natural fibres and our products are all designed by us, printed in the UK and finished by hand in Scotland, England and / or Italy.
A typical day varies depending on deadlines and pending projects. I arrive at the studio in the morning and first of all, I make a nice coffee and then review and update my to-do list. I go for a walk at the beach with the dog to kick start the day.
Most days I have to do admin work, like working on cash flow projections, bookkeeping, VAT submissions and applications.
Working with imagery and content creation for our website, social media, our science outreach projects and printed materials are a key part of our work as well. We just launched a new website so we spent a lot of time doing that. At the moment, I have to wear so many hats! Developing a collection takes a long time, I work on gathering inspiration every day. However, designing which I love so much, as well as working on sampling and production is done in cycles.
Crùbag is a multidisciplinary studio. We work at the interface of ocean sciences, textiles, design and environmental education.
I always loved textiles, colours and textures: the fascination of how beautiful pieces are made with a variety of materials, how good design evokes an emotional response and how culture is expressed through textiles.
When I came to Scotland I decided to fulfil my childhood dream which was to study marine science. I studied BSc Marine Science at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, University of the Highlands and Islands. I’m currently completing a course in Managing Luxury Brands from Bocconi University. I was very lucky to have been selected for the inaugural 2015 Scotland Can Do Scale intensive entrepreneurship training programme at Stirling University with professors from MIT and Harvard. For the last four years I immersed myself in the world of the textile industry, visiting fashion weeks, doing textile design courses, workshops and working with wonderful mentors.
The reactions of people when they see our designs and touch our textiles. The spark in their face is the best feedback we can ever get! The most proud moment was when I took my first samples ever to my mentor Pamela Conacher, from Emergents. Materialising a vision from an abstract idea in your head is priceless. Sometimes I come to the studio and see all scarves hanging on the rail and still can’t believe it is real.
The American author and journalist, Joan Didion taught me not to be afraid of my mind, and the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her colourful life inspired me to use unexpected colour combinations. They both prevailed despite major adversities.
Alexander MacQueen’s also had an impact on me. His designs are poetry for the eyes. The complexity, passion and rawness of his work is beyond any zeitgeist.
My mother who is a painter is also of great inspiration to me.
One special project that is very close to our heart is the continuation of the Murray collection into the Challenger collection, using the original challenger reports. The HMS Challenger set sail from Portsmouth, England in 1872 and spent nearly four years exploring the world’s oceans. Sir John Murray and his colleagues made seminal discoveries and carefully produced reports, which helped establish modern oceanography. They are stored at the marine institute where we are based. The illustrations on these reports are going to be the basis for our new collection.
Furthermore, our upcoming A/W collection will bring to the surface mysterious and unseen creatures from thousands of metres deep seamounts. Here, a combination of science imagery, grounded dark and rich colours and hand made drawings will give the collection an opulent natural history aesthetics. For our S/S 2019 collection I can only say that it is going to be a tropical exuberance of colours and lightness.
I love learning about all these scientific projects. Establishing collaborations with scientists is so exciting and personal, it gives me the sense of community and bouncing ideas is fundamental to stay sane. The design process is one of my favourite parts. Getting lost when designing, forgetting the world around me and being completely present and immersed in the creation process after a period of incubation and latency where the inspiration has been absorbed and worked by the subconscious mind before it re-emerges into the surface is just pure joy.
I jumped headfirst into the fire and had no idea how to design, print or run a textile based business. I never wanted to be a designer until that moment and had to figure out how I could do it – I didn’t know about fabric! It took me at least three to four additional years to learn about the industry. I took time to take design courses, and also to learn production. For that reason, I didn’t grow as fast as I hoped because I needed to learn so much. I was naïve and very enthusiastic but that is not enough. I decided to step back and focus on learning first, getting the product right. This is a huge industry, everyone is amazing and specialised. People study to be a designer for years and I didn’t have that. It’s really difficult to make it, and so I decided to let Crùbag grow organically. It was the right decision.
Our studio looks like a hybrid marine lab/design studio! It is rather eclectic, spacious and we have plenty of natural light pouring in. It is a second home.
Nature has an incredible capacity to surprise me with its unusual patterns and intrinsic forms. The oceans are a never ending source of design inspiration.
The best and the worst piece of advice I have been given was by my dad who said I could do whatever I put my mind to and be whoever I want to be.
The textile industry welcomed me with open arms. I look for the textile industry to continue to be a platform for development, exchange and inspiration. Amazing new technologies and materials are being constantly developed while traditional skills are being nurtured and preserved, I love the combination of cutting-edge technologies, innovation and traditional craftsmanship. I wish for the textile industry to make it easier for companies and designers to be more environmentally sustainable and to have a clearer and traceable supply chain, to be the voice of sustainability and lead by example.
We would love people to join our campaigns of knowledge based activism. Our current campaign is called The Power of Small. Good things come in small doses. Every third breath we take has oxygen produced from phytoplankton photosynthesis, and these tiny marine organisms are vital for us. We live in blue planet and the oceans are our live support system. We donate 10% of our profits to scientific institutions to support continued marine research.
Find Crubag online:
website / instagram / twitter / facebook
My name is Jane Macmillan. I am the Content Creation and Education Officer for the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) here in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
The main duties of my role here at the HTA include: managing our Social Media content (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo), maintaining our website content and updates, designing our Point of Sale materials (boards, leaflets, flyers) visiting and supporting schools and hosting workshops about the Harris Tweed industry, working ongoing projects such as the Harris Tweed App and our new exhibition room to work on.
I am very passionate, as an islander, about our Hebridean culture; our music, our language and our traditions. Harris Tweed comes into that world – weaving is an old tradition of the isles and Harris Tweed is something that belongs to the people of the Outer Hebrides. It’s part of our heritage, which I’m very proud to share with the rest of the world.
I went to study Classical Music first in Edinburgh, but I didn’t last long and had to move back home to Lewis – I was too homesick! After that, I studied Scottish Cultural Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands and then I started working at the HTA.
Photography: Lewis MacKenzie
I initially started working at the HTA on a year-long maternity cover post as an administrator. I worked hard and took every opportunity that was handed to me. I was very proud to be offered a new post as Content Creation and Education Officer and thankful to our CEO Lorna Macaulay for recognising my potential and for giving me the chance to explore the more creative aspects of the HTA.
In all honesty, the figure of the Outer Hebrides is what I look to for inspiration; the people and place. When I’m looking for social media or creative content inspiration, I always fall back on the colours of our landscapes and the stories behind our island people – those creating history today and those no longer with us, who left us great stories to tell the next generation!
I’m currently working with a design team on creating our Harris Tweed brand room exhibition. The space will tell the story of Harris Tweed; how it’s made and why it must be handwoven by islanders at their own homes in the Outer Hebrides from wool dyed and spun here also. It all comes back to the Harris Tweed Act of Parliament 1993, and that is what the exhibition will be about.
I really enjoy the social media aspect to my job. Connecting with people around the world over something we mutually love (Harris Tweed) is a great feeling.
I’ve only been working at the HTA for just under three years, so it’s a fairly new career break for me. Before that, I was a full-time musician! I’m sure there will be some pivotal career changing moments (and mistakes) to come in the future though, and plenty to learn from.
The HTA is located in the upstairs of the Stornoway Town Hall building. It’s a beautiful old building, right in the heart of Stornoway – tall ceilings, old doors and preserved fireplaces. It’s the perfect home for the ‘Guardians of the Orb’, which we’re ‘unofficially’ known as!
So far, my favourite piece of career advice is to make sure your colleagues are like your family. You can ask their advice, work as a strong team and bounce ideas off one another; working with people you love makes the job so much more enjoyable.
I would love for everyone to know the Harris Tweed story. Why Harris Tweed is the choice of fabric for many, why it’s so special, why it’s protected and why so many people fall in love with it. I want everyone to walk into a shop and know why they’d choose a garment or product in Harris Tweed over any other. I want people to understand that Harris Tweed is purely a fabric and be aware that there is an Act of Parliament to protect it. Most importantly, I want everyone to understand why it’s worth protecting.
I think it’s so important to love the job you have. When you think of how much time in your life you spend at work and with your colleagues, it seems silly to be doing something you really don’t enjoy. I consider myself very lucky to be working alongside such incredible people, with a brand I’m truly passionate about and in the place I call home. It’s wonderful to be part of the Harris Tweed family here in the Outer Hebrides and I can’t picture myself anywhere else.
Find Harris Tweed online:
website / Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Jane MacMillan interviewed by Kimberley White
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