From the catwalks of Milan to the shores of Shetland: The Scots with designs on success

Model Eunice Olumide is one of fashion's rising stars and has featured in a number of spectacular shoots, including this one in Namibia
Model Eunice Olumide is one of fashion's rising stars and has featured in a number of spectacular shoots, including this one in Namibia

SCOTS’ inventions, innovations and designs have helped transform the world for centuries and the past, present and future of our country’s creative talent will be celebrated when the V&A museum opens in Dundee in September.

Ahead of its opening, the design museum has hailed 50 Design Champions and here, Laura Smith speaks to four of them to talk about their work, their inspiration and their hopes for the V&A.

Fashion is in my blood. It’s all I ever wanted to do

Fashion designer Hayley Scanlan (Mhairi Edwards / DC Thomson)

DUNDEE fashion designer Hayley Scanlan’s fierce yet feminine designs have taken the fashion world by storm. She’s been featured in Vogue, has been twice named Young Scottish Designer of the Year and runs her own shop in Dundee.

“Fashion design is something I always wanted to do, it’s in my blood,” she says.

“My gran was a dressmaker. She taught me and before I even went to school I was making clothes for my Barbie.

“It’s a really tough industry to work in though. I became pregnant after I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and raising my sons in London on my own just wasn’t an option.

“I’m an ordinary girl from Dundee but I’ve managed to stay here and build up my business and brand by working really hard. I have a studio here and the shop is doing very well.

“It shows you don’t really need to have lots of money or be in a huge city like London to build your career in Scotland.

“I actually collaborated with the V&A London two years ago and the V&A in Dundee helped launch one of my labels in 2012.

“I think the V&A will help champion and raise the profile of home-grown talent because they will have a whole section dedicated to Scottish design.”


We are achieving all over the world


Eunice Olumide, model and designer (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

“Some of the best talent in London right now is Scottish, like Pam Hogg, Holly Fulton, Louise Gray, Graeme Armour and Christopher Kane, but these designers have to go to London because they don’t get the support they need here.

“Scots are world achievers in the arts, design and fashion. I think that’s something we should teach our children about, as well as championing our talent more and offering more support so they don’t need to go to London. Scotland is often thought of as uncultured and un-cosmopolitan.

“People are shocked that we have a vibrant fashion scene because that’s not the representation we give to the world.

“I think having a V&A in Scotland is long overdue and it’s incredible to be named one of their design champions.

“The heart of what the V&A Dundee stands for is similar to my own ideology because they are trying to be inclusive and represent how diverse our talent is.”


I used my diagnosis to inspire my designs


Kirsty Stevens, textile and jewellery designer (Kris Miller / DC Thomson)

“I was diagnosed with MS when I was 22 while studying design in Dundee. I took a year out but I soon learned it’s manageable.

“When I returned for my fourth year, I decided to use myself as a project for my degree show.

“I used the shapes created by harmful lesions on my brain, visible on my MRI scans, to create different patterns. I then laser cut these onto acrylic jewellery or screen print onto fabric.

“The idea is to put a positive spin on my diagnosis and raise awareness of MS. The feedback has been amazing and I think my designs allow people to openly ask questions about MS. I hope I can also inspire people with MS and make them feel a little bit proud.

“I have a home studio in Fife where I do all my designs and if I want to laser cut or screen print, I use the Dundee Contemporary Art print studio. I get so excited when I’m driving over from Fife and I see the V&A. It’s stunning. Dundee is a growing design community.”


I’m glad the skills are being kept alive

Mary Williamson, Knitwear designer


“I was five years old when I first learned to knit. I started making wee hats and scarves for bairns and soon learned the Fair Isle pattern. Even as a child, I was getting paid for my knitting. I later worked in the local fish factory and after I came home and made dinner, I’d sit in the living room and knit. It’s something we grew up with.

“For the last 10 years, I’ve been knitting full time. I used to be very fast but I’m a bit slower now at 91! I think knitting has helped keep my mind active and it’s also very relaxing and therapeutic.

“I’m best known for my Fair Isle patterns. It takes around three weeks to knit a men’s jumper. Sea Pinks is one of my most popular designs because using pink in that pattern is very unusual.

“The colours are inspired by the wild rock flowers that grow along the Whalsay coast. I think I’ve probably sent a design to every continent.

“I would like to see more young people take up knitting. It almost died out here and in the Fair Isle. It’s such an important part of our life in The Shetlands and I think people just didn’t want to lose those skills and tradition so it’s made a big comeback here.

“I’m really proud to be a V&A Design Champion, especially for the Fair Isle knitting. It would be great if the V&A can inspire more people to get involved in the textile industry. Knitting has certainly become more popular now as a hobby.”