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.


  1. […] with a plethora of design talent hailing from North of the border – see Hayley Scanlan, Catriona MacAllister, Hilary Grant, Jane Gowans (more on Jane v soon) – and a growing interest in all things […]

  2. Morris says:

    I’ve been browsing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did,
    the web will be much more useful than ever before.

  3. […] design talent. Tonight sees Mairi showcase her designs alongside the other finalists – Catriona Macallister, Claire Corstorphine and Jacob Birge – and the designers from Fashion Foundry in a catwalk […]

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