Designer Spotlight: Catriona MacAllister

With a healthy whack of designers and manufacturers originating in Scotland, as well as many finding inspiration there, the spotlight is firmly on Alba and all it can offer the world of fashion.

The recent acquisition by fashion behemoth PPR of a 51% stake in Christopher Kane showed that Scottish designers are gaining real currency. Regular readers will know I’m a real champion of Scottish design talent and love to share the work and achievements of emerging designers from North of the Border.

One such design talent is Catriona Clark, of womenswear label Catriona MacAllister. The Scottish Fashion Award-nominated designer clearly has a passion for her craft and breathes fresh life into the industry. I predict big things for the innovative young designer, who has already achieved so much. And she’s living proof that there are lovely people in fashion that can make things happen.

Catriona very kindly answered some questions for me that I thought I would share with you – hope you enjoy the Q&A! To start with, here’s some shots from her beautiful graduate collection, ‘Archaic Light’, shot by Christopher Heaney:

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

Have you always wanted to be a designer? Where does this interest come from?

My family has always been artistic as both my parents were art teachers – my mum also has a strong interest in patchwork quilting and also runs her own business teaching others. My grandmother used to do millinery too, so I guess that I knew from an early age I was going to embark with a creative career and over the years it developed into fashion.

Where did you learn your craft?

I have a BA in Fashion Design for Industry from Heriot-Watt University, School of Textiles and Design. Growing up, I had been sewing for many years and as a child my mum taught me patchwork quilting and how to make some of my own clothes.

What inspires your designs?
I take inspiration from pretty much anywhere. I really just let my mind wander as it’s usually the ideas that I stumble upon that have the biggest impact on me, rather than ones that I think through too much. Although, I have found that I draw a lot of inspiration from architecture and always end up referring back to it in some way or another.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Within my collections I focus on strong tailoring and an elegant silhouette that highlights intricate detailing using laser cutting, embroidery and digital printing.

Is your heritage important to you? Does it come into your work at all?

My heritage is very important to me and I would like to be able to represent this to an international audience. It does inspire my work but it will vary from season to season as to what I have been focused on researching. For my current spring/ summer13 collection I would say that it has subtly inspired my work through the traditional architecture.

Do you feel under pressure as a designer to conform to certain trends?

Understanding trends and the importance of them is good for me as a designer; however I feel it is my job to contribute to creating trends also. I try not to think about if my work fits with the current trends but rather concentrate on how I can best represent my ideas through a cohesive, well constructed collection for the customer.

Do other designers inspire you?

Yes of course! But they also encourage me too which I feel more important, as starting up on your own is difficult and you spend a lot of time on your own, you need to in order to get so much of the work completed on time. So if you are going through a difficult stage with the label, knowing that other designers have been through the same thing and are now doing incredibly well just helps to keep you going.

Tell me about your spring/summer 2013 collection.

This collection is titled “Archaic Light” as a lot of my inspiration came from architecture, in particular cathedrals and churches. Some of my favourite images of these types of buildings are all the old derelict ones that are in ruins. I took a lot of my initial inspiration from Elgin Cathedral not far from my home in Scotland. It’s a beautiful building and you can still see a lot of the hand carved decoration in the stones. I can only imagine what it would have looked like before it fell into ruins.

As so much of the photography I was looking at was in black and white that led to the colour palette consisting mainly of whites and pale greys. Much of the detail in the collection came from the decoration of the interiors and in particular the stain glass windows. Inspiration for this was taken from the “Sagrada de la Familia” by Gaudi in Barcelona. This was then developed into laser cutting and embroidery seen throughout the collection.

What are your favourite materials to work with?

I like to work with a variety of materials in my collections, and always try to use something I haven’t used before; however, it is always exciting using traditional fabrics in new and unusual ways. I remember a project I did at university with a few classmates for the rainwear company Mackintosh where we had to design a new coat for them; with my design I experimented with laser cutting designs onto their traditional rubberized cloth which produced some really interesting effects.

Green is Pantone’s ‘Colour of the Year’. Do you have a signature or favourite colour?

With the spring/summer collection I guess that white has become the signature colour for me; which is interesting as I see it like a blank canvas at the start of my career, waiting to be filled with colour, who knows!

What’s next for Catriona MacAllister?

Keep pushing the label forward with innovative collections that help to raise awareness of my work to an international audience.

Thank you to Catriona for taking the time to answer my questions! You can check out her website here, follow her on Twitter here and like her Facebook page here.

Here’s a closer look at Catriona’s spring/summer 13 collection with some studio shots by Dan Sim.

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

SS13 Archaic Light - Catriona MacAllister

Thanks to Catriona for the graduate show images by Christopher Heaney and photoshoot images by Dan Sim.

Designer Spotlight: Hilary Grant

With the significant drop in temperature over the last few weeks, thoughts inevitably turn to how to keep warm whilst retaining a semblance of personal style. I love the colder weather and the opportunities it presents for layering and wrapping up warm with cosy knitwear. To me, knitted accessories are the perfect way to add personality to your look in winter. After all, they’re the one thing everyone is going to see! I don’t know about you, but I get bored of the high street’s knitwear offering, and with certain shops you just know if you buy that scarf, three other people will be wearing it on the bus on Monday.

Enter independent knitwear designer Hilary Grant. Based in Orkney, Hilary’s own name label focuses on high quality craftsmanship and quirky design, injecting staple winter warmers with distinct style and personality. Hilary’s knitted accessories are designed, hand knitted and hand finished in Scotland with the highest quality soft 2 ply lambswool sourced from Scottish mills.

The collection of scarves, hats and gloves combines simple, classic styles with Hilary’s signature bold use of pattern and chic colour palette. Drawing on Scotland’s rich knitwear heritage and traditions, Hilary’s designs are playful, whilst maintaining a contemporary edge. I challenge you not to feel a pang of childhood nostalgia for Hilary’s mittens and bobble hats. Luckily her sophisticated designs make mitten-wearing a chic affair, and her bobble hats are worth the risk of hat hair.

Hilary has extensive experience designing knitwear and textiles, and her passion for all things knitted is clear to me. You only need to follow her Twitter account to see that! It’s great to see one of our homegrown designers doing so well and Hilary has deservedly garnered some fantastic press recently. Her designs are practical and wearable, and obviously carefully considered; for example, scarves are wide and long, according to Hilary’s website they are designed ‘to be wrapped around multiple times for maximum warmth’. Yes please!

Hilary’s designs will brighten even the dullest of winter days, and are something to be cherished and enjoyed winter after winter.

Click on each image below to find the items on Hilary’s online shop.

Hilary Grant

Hilary Grant


Hilary Grant


Hilary Grant




Images courtesy of Hilary Grant.

Read Hilary’s blog here.

Designer Spotlight: Hayley Scanlan

Hayley Scanlan

Hayley Scanlan

Hayley Scanlan

Hayley Scanlan

Just a few weeks ago I blogged about Edinburgh Online Fashion Week and Scottish design talent. It’s an exciting time for Scottish fashion and our home grown designers, many of whom have gained a following recently.

Dundee-born Hayley Scanlan is one such talent. Scanlan specialises in womenswear and is known for her clean, unfussy silhouettes and bold prints – she designs all of her own unique, printed fabrics. Each garment’s signature hand-embellishment is testament to the designer’s  attention to detail. Scanlan learnt her craft at an early age, under the direction of her grandmother before she was formally trained in printed textile design at Duncan Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and interned as a print designer at Jeremy Scott in Beverly Hills. Her graduate collection ‘New Frontiers’ (pictured above) caught the eye of supermodel Erin O’Connor who commissioned Scanlan to make a custom studded leather jacket.

Scanlan set up her eponymous womenswear label in 2011 (and amazingly, that same year she gave birth to twin boys too). Since then, her designs have won many high profile fans including Jessie J, Marina Diamandis and girl groups Stooshee and Little Mix. Earlier this year Scanlan received the highly coveted Young Designer of the Year Award at the Scottish Fashion Awards; to have achieved so much at this stage of her career is commendable.

This year, Scanlan set up her studio in her hometown of Dundee and became an official ambassador for the city. I love how she stays true to her roots and her homeland – something that really inspires me. And she’s showing no signs of slowing down; just a few weeks ago Scanlan launched her diffusion line, HS, with a runway show at the V&A in Dundee. Fans, friends and family often approached Scanlan via social media requesting designs. She took the hint and decided to design a more affordable, wearable range that reflected the aesthetic of the mainline collection in simpler fabrics.

The debut diffusion collection ‘Velvet Venom’ features Scanlan’s contemporary, streamlined silhouettes and bold prints including graphic stripes, abstract snakeskin and mock croc prints. The simple cuts and bright block hues let the print do the talking, with some signature Scanlan embellishment added into the mix. The HS collection is available to buy on the Hayley Scanlan website, which launched alongside the diffusion line.

Here’s a few shots from the ‘Velvet Venom’ diffusion collection – you can check out the collection in its entirety here.

Hayley Scanlan

Hayley Scanlan

Hayley Scanlan

Hayley Scanlan

p.s. Make sure to check out awesome Dundee street style blog Delta Street Style for some fab street style pics from the HS launch

Images courtesy of Hayley Scanlan

Edinburgh Online Fashion Week 2012

Scotland is firmly on the fashion map it seems. Just weeks ago it was announced that Chanel will hold its spectacular Métiers d’Art show at a top secret castle location just outside Edinburgh. Mere days before this announcement, the French fashion house also bought Scottish wool supplier (and cashmere provider to Chanel itself) Barrie Knitwear, based in Hawick.

Some of our top designers are gaining worldwide recognition and I burst with pride when they fly the flag for us at London Fashion Week (Saunders, Kane, Fulton et al). However, I think it is high time for a North of the Border celebration of some of our less well-known but brilliantly talented designers, graduates and boutiques.

Enter Edinburgh Online Fashion Week (EOFW), Scotland’s first exclusively digital fashion event. Last week saw the début of the highly-anticipated web event, which featured the city’s top designers and boutiques in a bid to promote Scottish fashion talent. Over five days last week Edinburgh Online Fashion Week broadcast to a global audience with a series of fifteen fashion shows streamed live on their website as well as on the From high street to designer, vintage boutiques to graduate collections, the schedule was packed with variety, a true celebration of Scottish fashion.

Each show has its own page with film, close-up photographs, information about the designer/ boutique and each collection, as well as behind-the-scenes interviews and pictures. It was everything you would want from an interactive fashion week – and more. Unlike the mainstream catwalk shows with their fantastical creations and distant allure, everything on the online catwalk could actually be bought – real, attainable fashion in action.

And that’s the beauty of it: it’s accessible to everyone. “Fashion can sometimes alienate people if they are unable to attend events due to location, timing and financial restraints,” EOFW founder Gary Anderson told The Scotsman. “We wanted to make our event accessible to everyone so we are using the internet to communicate with a much larger audience. Our audience are the people at home, on the bus and on their lunch break across the globe connecting with us on any internet device.”

Fiona Somerville’s collection (see the video above) was a definite highlight for me – especially her beautiful oversized and embellished knitwear. Somerville graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2011 and experienced considerable interest in her work during her graduate year and at London Graduate Fashion Week. She also won the Scottish Cashmere Club competition in 2011 and has worked with Hawick Knitwear to manufacture her designs. Definitely a one to watch…

I also greatly enjoyed the Shhh… boutique show. The exclusive Shhh… Salon opened in Edinburgh last year and went on to win Fashion Retailer of the Year at the Scottish Fashion Awards in its first year – testament to its popularity, which I think is largely down to the unique retail experience it offers and the boutique’s strength of vision. Their selection of shoes is keenly edited, Shhh… doesn’t focus on trends but rather selects the highest quality and most creative, of-the-moment designers.

What do you think of Edinburgh Online Fashion Week?