Northern exposure

Bethan Cole looks at the vibrant sense of style that keeps Scotland at the cutting edge of fashion.

This was the year that Scottish fashion got reappropriated. Again. Galliano er (11 sent micro kilts down the catwalk in October. New school punks took out a second mortgage to buy vintage tartan bondage trousers from cult London shop Acupuncture. Men in nightclubs donned kilts over trousers and styling gurus such as Simon Foxton prompted the fashion conscious to dig out their old Argyll sweaters and socks.

Glasgow has the highest concentration of designer and mid-priced chain stores outside London - from Muil, Jigsaw and Nicole Farhi to Armani and Versace.

But with no indigenous manufacturing base to speak of (save the woollen mills) and few well-known designer exports (except Pam Hogg). perhaps the most Scottish fashion can hope for is to serve as a dressing-up box of influences for designers and stylists: Scottish costume representing the wildcat subversion of the feudal clans and classic British aristocratic style.

That‘sjust one halfof the story though. Scotland may have only one fashion degree course at Edinburgh College of Art but it is home to a growing number of talented young designers. including Jacqui Burke. Tara Johnston and Jilli Blackwood. It is also the base of Paul Hamdon. the little known but hugely influential shoe designer for Ann Demeulemeester and Cornme des Garcons. What's more. Scottish shoppers are prepared to spend money on clothes and for proof of that look no further than Glasgow, which has the highest concentration of designer and mid-priced chain stores outside London from Muji. Jigsaw and Nicole Farhi to Armani and Versace.

‘There‘s a very definite style and identity up here,‘ says Linda Lawrence. buyer for lchi Ni San. ‘I think people have more fashion attitude. We're not behind, things happen in London and Glasgow simultaneously these days.‘ lchi Ni San opened in 1986 and has been a pivotal force in Scottish retail ever since. An opulent, postmodern interior married with a consistently avant-garde buying policy has meant that it has often been the first stockist of new design talent outside London. Walk into the shop two years ago and you'd have seen Jean Colonna and Helmut Lang on the'rails way before deconstruction hit the public consciousness. Now that Helmut Lang

80 The List 8—2! April I994

has turned catwalk celebrity (with prices to match) they are onto something new again. For Spring/Summer 94 they're tipping ltalian label Costume Nationale‘s relaxed tailoring. Conscious Earthwear‘s slubbed eco-threads and classic-with-a-twist menswear label Squire as ones to watch. ‘We’ve never been afraid to take on people who don‘t have loads of press.‘ continues Linda. ‘we‘ve got a lot of confidence in young designers. particularly young British designers.‘

Nina Grant. owner of Corniche in Edinburgh. has also been prepared to put her money where her mouth is and buy up new designers over the shop‘s fifteen-year history. The first Scottish shop to stock Gaultier and Moschino. Nina has been carrying scottish designer Jacqui Burke‘s clothes for three seasons now. She‘s currently enthusiastic about being one of the first British stockists of London design stars New Renaissance. ‘lt's a wonderful

collection. I‘m getting the bodies with

nltat Uzbek stocked at Cruise and Corniche posies of flowers springing out of them and white poplin shins with daisies on the collar. They‘ve done a lot of acid colours cen'se and orange. pretty wild yet very wearable.‘

- Despite the innovative and creative

buying policy of independent designer shops like Comiche and lchi Ni San they‘ve had to temper their design ethics to hard-nosed commercial sensibility during the recent recession. With The Warehouse in Glasgow facing highly public financial difficulties and chain stores like Top Shop ripping off the designer collections as soon as they come off the catwalk, there is an air of pragmatism about. ‘A better price level is coming through in the industry now.‘ says Linda Lawrence. ‘Designers are actually producing lower priced ranges rather than diffusion lines which were a cop-out. They've had to respond. Customers are a lot less frivolous. quite rightly so.‘ The new generation of British designers; Flytc ()stell. Abe Hamilton and Copperwheat Blundell

have made a design statement out of simplicity and wearability. The pendulum of fashion has swung away from the quirky seasonal innovation of the 80s to value. continuity and durability. Shops have had to adapt to this new mentality. ‘The public have to be able to wear the clothes we stock now.‘ adds Linda. ‘otherwise you‘re sitting with an art gallery on your hands and not selling any clothes.‘

()ne inescapable factor of the wearability of garments in Scotland is the weather. At Cruise. head buyer David Finlayson explains that seasonal buying is not as strictly differentiated into summer and winter as it is in more temperate climes. ‘We don‘t do a high summer look as such. when we are buying for summer it tends to be the spring and early winter weight garments. Bright colours and hare-all styles don‘t really work.‘ For summer. David predicts the popularity of the new Paul Smith women‘s wear range: ‘lt‘s perfect for the Scottish summer. pale blue linen trouser suits with longline Epsom jackets and drainpipe trousers. Refined and elegant.‘

‘The public have to be able to wear the clothes we stock now, otherwise you’re sitting

with an art gallery on your

hands and not selling any clothes.’

Tam ‘o‘ Shanters and sporrans aside. Scotland has a vibrant sense of style and promising quota ofdesign talent and there are a lot of people prepared to back it. Linda Lawrence for one. ‘Having style is a great advantagejust now. You can rework what you‘ve got. I believe that people in Scotland have the style and individuality that it takes.‘

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