Discover the Scottish sustainability pioneers
Style and Substance
Harnessing the benefits of local production, superior natural materials and an enduring commitment to quality are just some of the reasons why Scotland is leading when it comes to sustainable design
Scottish brands have been selecting the finest natural materials and transforming them into luxurious products sought after around the world for hundreds of years, working with a tight-knit network of nearby suppliers long before the ‘local sourcing’ movement came into fashion. Now a new cohort of Scottish creatives are exploring concepts such as zero waste and the circular economy, while heritage labels are adopting resource-efficient materials and processes into their production, without compromising on quality and style.
Menswear brand Kestin is one which takes ethical and sustainable production very seriously. With a career formed at British brands Reiss and Nigel Cabourn, creative director Kestin Hare champions UK production, striving to make locally wherever possible while ensuring his collections are designed to last.
“We also don’t follow trends,” explains Kestin. “We produce clothes that last, that get better with age. All our products are wearer trialled before they reach market, double checking performance, fit and washability to ensure high quality and a longer life span. We stand for the best design and the best quality.
“We select cloth that is of the highest quality and will last with as little environmental impact as possible. We take into consideration the durability of the garment, as well as the production process, to fully gauge the sustainable impact.”
The brand also prides itself on small production runs, which means higher production standards as well as being able to control the entire supply chain. Kestin only works with factories which promote fair wages, safe working conditions and ethics, worker’s rights, high quality standards, and that maintain a strong bond with the surrounding community. The brand has developed a personal relationship with these factories over the years. The team remain hands-on throughout the process, visiting the factories regularly and developing innovative, sustainable solutions.
“We are committed to producing clothes in a sustainable way; it is a journey and we are learning and improving every step of the way,” says Kestin.
After years of working freelance in the knitwear industry creating pieces for clients including Christopher Kane, Jasper Conran and House of Holland, Flora Collingwood-Norris decided to channel her passion for knitwear into designs for her own label Collingwood-Norris. She now creates luxurious knitwear from her small studio in the Scottish Borders but also offers a visible mending service for knitwear, as well as mending guides so people can learn to mend their own.
Visible mending has links to the Japanese kintsugi, the art of highlighting cracks in broken pottery and Flora has gained a big following for her work on Instagram (@visible_creative_mending). She is publishing a book on how to visibly and creatively mend knitwear later this year.
Veske is a new Scottish lifestyle accessory brand, which offers authentic and versatile bags made with the highest care and attention to detail. The brand’s parent company was first established in 1789, hand manufacturing ropes and hand sewn sails for the Scottish fishing fleet. Skills and expertise have been passed down the generations of the Paton family, who still own the company today.
Amy Gair, design and brand development manager, explains that a local supply chain was very important for the creation of the Veske brand.
“The materials for the heritage collection have been sourced from within the UK as much as possible, with the exception of the fidlock snap fastening which was sourced from Germany,” she says. “The main material of the products are sourced from Halley Stevensons, the waxed cotton specialist, which is based in Dundee, only 30 miles away from our workshop in Montrose.”
Amy explains: “With a similar heritage story to our own, alongside being established around the same time as our parent company, we felt it important to include Halley Stevensons materials in our Heritage Collection and a nod to the past Scottish fishing fleet and natural waterproofed sails and smocks.”
Both Walker Slater and SnowPaw feature a lot of Harris Tweed in their collections, for tailoring and footwear/accessories respectively. A unique handwoven fabric known for its distinctive look, Harris Tweed is made from 100% British wool, which is naturally renewable, biodegradable, recyclable, as well as being breathable, wind and waterproof and flame resistant, all without the need for additional finishes. Produced only in the Outer Hebrides, Harris Tweed sustains specialist weaving and textile production skills throughout remote rural communities – securing sustainable employment opportunities for generations of islanders.
Walker Slater works closely with Harris Tweed Hebrides, producing garments for the international catwalk in the UK and the EU and has recently opened flagship stores on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and in London. Snowpaw, meanwhile, works with the Carloway Mill on the island and sources its production in Asia.
Luxury accessories label Begg x Co is also working collaboratively with industry partners to ensure sustainability is at the heart of everything it does. Begg x Co is the house label of Alex Begg, which has been crafting exquisite accessories from the finest cashmere, silk and wool blend yarns at its mill in Ayr, on the West Coast of Scotland, for more than 150 years.
“As members of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, nurturing close relationships with key suppliers is something that we take very seriously,” says Ann Ryley, sales and marketing director at Begg x Co. “The manufacture of products using natural fibres means animal welfare is a major concern, and the monitoring of good practice is paramount to us”.
She adds: “Our sustainability team make regular visits to the farms in Mongolia and China to allow us to feel confident about high standards of animal husbandry, and certifies that any cashmere, angora or wool materials have been sourced ethically, without coming into contact with any harmful chemicals.”
Accessories label Rocio offers a luxurious collection of bags made using the finest sustainable Acacia wood. The brand’s founder and designer Hamish Menzies says: “Our handpicked wood is always officially certified, and our suppliers are strictly verified by the Environment of Natural Resources. When a mature tree is ready for harvest, it is witnessed by a forest ranger and up to fifty tree saplings are planted in its place.
“We are devoted to designing waste out of our bags so each of our designs can enjoy a full restoration to extend their longevity or can easily be recycled for second life,” he explains. “We take our time in creation and make no apologies for our slow fashion approach in producing for the long term.”
Scottish beauty and skincare brands are also focused on natural and organic materials. The full Edinburgh Natural Skincare Company range is 100% natural and anhydrous, with no petrochemicals, phthalates, parabens or sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS) present in any of its products. Ishga, meanwhile, is a range of natural skincare products made from Scottish seaweed, Certified Organic by the Soil Association.
While this is just a taste of what Scotland has to offer, it demonstrates how Scottish brands offer sustainable style that can be worn from head to toe!