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A Highland Tartan Uprising

17-Oct-2017 10:52 AM | Kimberley White

A visionary new tartan weaving enterprise is taking shape on the Black Isle, just north of Inverness in Scotland.  This new initiative is set to re-design tartan for the future.

“Build the Mill” is a Kickstarter crowd funding campaign that will enable Scottish luxury design House Prickly Thistle Ltd to bring tartan weaving back to its home in the Scottish Highlands. Founder Clare Campbell gave up a career in accountancy to launch the Prickly Thistle brand two years ago and since that time has built up an international clientele.

“Our company gives its clients the opportunity to weave their own piece of history through bespoke tartan designs and products” Campbell, 39 and a native of Ross-shire explained.

Struggling to find suitable manufacturing partners in Scotland in what is already a busy sector for the country’s economy, Campbell took the step to build her own mill on the Black Isle. She has already purchased a farm steading that was suitable for conversion and has received pre-planning approval for the project.

“Given Scotland is the traditional home of tartan, many people find it amazing that there are no tartan weaving mills in the Highland area. Furthermore, by bringing the latest textile weaving technology in-house to complement the brand’s design function, we can ensure that we can meet customer demand while at the same time producing cloth of the highest quality.”

After significant research, the company decided to use the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform to raise £500,000 to help complete the mill project. Subscribers to the campaign on the Kickstarter website will be able to choose different levels of cash pledges for which they will receive products, or ‘rewards’ for their support.

But it’s more than just making tartan in its traditional home. For decades, tartan or plaid design fabrics have been hailed as one of the greatest fabric designs anywhere the world.  From fashion to interiors, this recognisable cloth has stood the test of time, guaranteeing that you will almost always find it in any on design trend listing. 

Tartan cloth and designs have graced the catwalks as integral parts of iconic collections from the most out spoken designers.  Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gautier and Alexander McQueen have all applied a rebellious twist to their garment styles with the use of tartan.

In the world of interiors, the use of the cloth has included special edition models from leading luxury sports car brands such as Porsche and Lotus and of course it is a staple of top interior designers worldwide. Patrice Wyndham-Smith of the official On Madison blog noted “Plaid is a new modern and one of the hottest looks around for fall.  Designers have rebranded plaid and we are seeing it pop up on the runways and in unexpected ways for home décor.  The key to the new plaid is how and where it is used”.

This use of the cloth is what has inspired Clare Campbell to not only take tartan back to its roots but also use it to build an international brand based in the Scottish Highlands. She explained “At Prickly Thistle, we are creating a premium brand for Scotland that will be on a par with the famous European designers, such as Hermes, LVMH and Chanel. To showcase our design capability and to reinforce the fact that Scotland can be home to premium fashion items, we have created a range of bespoke products for the campaign that include our tartan designs as well as providing complementary fashion items of a timeless nature. This new mill will allow us to bring the whole process in house thus creating the opportunity to re-design tartan in every sense, challenge the stereotypes, deconstruct 200 years of the same and disrupt the future of this iconic design but also ensure quality is integral to the process” said Campbell.

As a trustee of the Scottish Tartans Authority, Campbell also ensures that each tartan design is included on the official register. Scottish Tartan Authority Chairman John McLeish is impressed with this exciting campaign, "Scotland is blessed with a good number of quality tartan designers, and weavers of our national iconic fabric. Clare brings a new dimension, and a huge amount of energy, to a traditional industry and it is particularly pleasing to support her ambition of bringing tartan back to its spiritual home. From our perspective, the creation of a new tartan weaving facility in the Highlands is very welcome indeed."

The campaign, which hopes to raise £500,000 to convert and fit out the mill building runs from 14 October for two months. It will offer luxury reward gift items ranging from £15 to £8,000, all of which are unique to the campaign or are numbered limited edition products. 

Visit the Build The Mill Kickstarter today to pledge your support

Prickly Thistle website

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