Made in Scotland

Watching a Danish drama on a Korean TV whilst eating Indian food having just come back from the Swedish furniture store in your German car. We live in a globalised world, perhaps not all children of Thatcher but certainly subjects of capitalism.

What of materials in the 21st  century? Is a product more than the sum of its individual parts? Yes, and in Scotland we are actually rather good at making things. Throughout the enlightenment and industrial revolution Scots – and our English neighbours – were changing the world. This was followed by Alexander Graham Bell, John Logie Baird and Alexander Fleming but the Dunlop tyre, Mackintosh raincoat all the way through to the thousands of skilled workers who carried out -with perfection – the intellectual inspiration of the academics and inventors.

Made in Scotland has a lineage and foundation but we have had more than a few blips and forgettable products. Though tied up in sclerotic nationalised car companies our motor industry never really produced any iconic vehicles. Certainly not too many Hillman Imps still on the road. Blind patriotism can only get you so far. Many other Scots industries seemed in terminal decline (whisky apart) from the Eighties but there has undoubtedly been a positive change in recent years, a renaissance with fashion and textiles at the vanguard.

 

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Where have we gone right? Well this is the interesting part. The Scottish textiles and artisan companies doing well haven’t really changed what they are making they have merely told the story better, literally and metaphorically we have improved the packaging of our products. This isn’t to say we are one big Jo Malone enterprise but the international consumer must believe in the product and in order for that to happen the aesthetic must convince and the story must serve as good bait.

In Scotland we have a truly unique landscape and successful companies like Johnstons of Elgin and Todd & Duncan engage this environment advancing the ‘light’ Scottish water as being at the core of the quality of their yarn. There is also a 240-year archive to draw on. Over on the Outer Hebrides the Harris Tweed industry has taken this to the next level. ‘From the land comes the cloth’ is a well-used mantra but what does it actually mean? This touches on the near soulful relationship between the Clo Mor (Big Cloth) and the landscape that inspires it with the weavers and artisans as mediators. This symbiosis between land and cloth was never meant to act as marketing fodder but is a wonderful reason to buy into the brand.

 

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‘Too rough too old-fashioned, wrong cut, just wrong. For pensioners, for farmers, for Miss Marple’…not for me.  All criticisms well-known to the earnest Scottish textile fraternity through the difficult 80’s /90’s but these stereotypes (mostly unfounded) have thawed in the past few years, why? Because an impressive matrix of discerning Japanese taste-makers, international journalists and Parisian fashion houses have all stuck with Scottish textiles. Chanel, arguably the greatest fashion brand in the world, look at Scotland as a place where heritage and provenance has bred a unique slow luxury where luxury is defined not just in the object (finished product) but by the intricacies of the process. When Chanel tips their hat, others take notice.

In 1913 20% of all industrial shipping was born on the river Clyde. We can never compete in mass industrial fabrication but ingenuity and integrity mixed with a little hard work will make for a bright future. Scotland has made its fair share of world-reknowned products and our whisky is experiencing a golden age but there are myriad companies making first class products right here. The Wood group exporting drilling components to the four corners, Mackintosh in Cumbernauld but ,mostly exported to Japan, Arran Aromatics bringing the scent of Scotland to a global audience.  Let’s keep producing the quality, let’s keep telling the story. Made in Scotland, consumed by the world. 

 

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