It has starred in Downton Abbey, featured in Hollywood films and been worn by pop royalty like Jess Glynne.
Now three fashionistas are on a mission to take Scottish lace to the heights of cool couture by showcasing the traditional textile on catwalks from Madrid to Hong Kong.
Scottish designers Judy R Clark, Mairi McDonald and Elizabeth Martin have already made waves in the fashion industry in recent years with their independent labels.
But despite having their own distinctive styles, all were drawn to the 19th century heritage of Ayrshire’s MYB Textiles mill, the only producer in the world still making patterned lace on original 100yearold Nottingham lace looms.
Judy R Clark
Judy has been working with Scottish lace for the last four years.
“It all started with mixing tartans, tweed and lace and having loads of fun with it,” she says, sitting in her Edinburgh studio surrounded by swathes of fabric.
“It was making Harris Tweed and Scottish cloths feminine which hadn’t really been done for a long time because people were associating it with square boxy itchy fabrics.
I went to visit the mill and I just fell in love with it. Just to see people weaving it and making it it’s pretty incredible.”
With a string of awards to her name and clients like Emeli Sande wearing her work, Judy launched an alllace collection inspired by Victorian silhouettes at Milan Fashion Week in 2015.
“I like all the historic pieces,” she says. “Anything that is over the top and dramatic, I’ll probably fall in love with it straight away. You can turn your hand to any fabric as long as it’s good enough. Clients come to me and they want that lace because it is made here. They love the connection. I think people are appreciating it more.”
After training and working in London, fashion designer Mairi knew Glasgow was the right place to launch her label in 2013.
Her brand has a rock ‘n’ roll vibe inspired by iconic female musicians like Janis Joplin, Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith.
And even Grammy awardwining singer Jess Glynne popped into her Trongate studio to find out about more about her work while in town for the MTV EMAs.
Countless hours of research goes into each collection, but when Mairi discovered Scottish lace for the first time she immediately fell in love with its effortless feel and felt like it was meant to be.
“I had never heard of Scottish lace,” Mairi says, while picking out her favourite pieces.
“I liked the cotton lace from Scotland because it was quite day to night, quite dress up or dress down.”
Having shown consecutively at both London and Paris Fashion Weeks, it’s not just Mairi who is a fan of Scottish Lace, with the two bestselling pieces from her first collection featuring the fabric.
“Fabrication is such a key thing,” she says. “Everything has to be perfect, everything has to work well. Essentially, I am always mixing lace with silks and chiffons and ribbon details.
It is how you put it out there and what you put it together with that I think makes it really stand out.
I think if you are doing it in a new contemporary exciting way, and really changing the viewpoint of how people perceive particular Scottish fabrics.”
Elizabeth’s love of fashion stems from her grandmother, a keen seamstress who was always making clothes.
Beautiful fabrics have always caught her eye, having spent over a decade working in soft furnishing. Four years ago she decided to jump into the world of fashion and has never looked back.
“I decided I wanted to use specifically Scottish fabrics and they had to be made in Scotland. I am still strong on that,” she says.
“Their [MYB] lace is exquisite and has a heritage and provenance which Harris Tweed has as well.
“People like a story. We all like a story.
“I thought that would be a brilliant idea to make up some designs using lace but trimming with Harris Tweed.
“I thought it was a lovely combination .The cream or black lace with a pop of colour.
“It is a hidden gem.”
Earlier this week, Elizabeth joined MYB Textiles at Scotland Re:Designed as they flew to Hong Kong to promote Scottish fashion and textiles to a global audience.
MYB’s lace designer Margo Graham says it is the perfect platform for the fabric and makes for an exciting chapter in the mill’s centuryold story.
Having started work in the lace industry when she was 17, Margo followed in the footsteps of her mother, a lace designer, and her grandmother who was a darner.
The mill, which has brought its 100-year-old looms into the digital age by connecting them up to special design software, has seen its lace feature on the sets of hit drama Downton Abbey and Wes Anderson’s recent film The Grand Budapest Hotel.
“It is sometimes hard to sell something as ‘Scottish’ without it becoming twee,” Margo says.
“We have got the traditional element, which will always be there, but it’s not just traditional lace we can make.
“We make abstract designs and quite modern lace with different colours.
“I think since the recession, people are thinking you should buy British and keep industry in Britain.”
See the full article by Pamela Tulloch here