To make the finest accessories the best fabrics are on your doorstep. That was the logic behind luxury brand Strathberry
Thousands and thousands of metres of cheap tweed are pumped out of factories in China every day. Clare Robertson would watch them, heart sinking with every roll. It was partly in response to this that she and business partner Guy Hundleby established Scotland’s newest luxury brand.
“I spent a fair bit of time out in the Far East,” she says, “and visited several factories that are producing tweed. Ultimately, this is a Scottish fabric, so it’s very disheartening to see that. I wanted to be able to design some bespoke tweeds that are actually made in Scotland.”
So, just over a year ago, Strathberry was born; its first standalone store opened in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket last month. Working closely with a mill in Peeblesshire, Robertson has designed smooth silk/linen mix tweeds in five main colour palettes. For women, there is the vibrant red, white and blue Tantallon, inspired by the red sandstone of Tantallon castle in East Lothian; and Harebell, in homage to the Scottish flower, with a colour pop of mustard and trimmed with granite leather. “When you look outside on a cloudy day,” says Robertson, “you get all these wonderful greys and that’s really where that colour comes from.”
Then there is Sweet Brandy – “that’s inspired by my grandmother, who liked to have a glass of sweet brandy” – and, for men, the russet and mustard Portmore and the blues and pale yellows of Silverbirch.
The leather is exquisite, super-smooth English bridle leather, and each laboriously hand-finished bag takes 12 hours of work to create. All of which goes some way to explaining the price tag of between £400 and £1,500. A spectacular golf bag costs just over £4,000.
“It’s not being desperately Scottish,” insists Robertson. “We’re pushing the boundaries of what traditional is. We’re doing something a little bit contemporary – or at least I think so.”
Born and brought up in Edinburgh, Robertson, who is creative director of Strathberry, had been involved in the Scottish fashion industry for many years, then worked in manufacturing in the Midlands, before being wooed back to Scotland to work as head designer for Ness. “I’ve been thinking about this for what feels like a lifetime,” she says. “It was just about finding the right moment. To launch a brand takes a hell of a lot of time and commitment.”
The timing could hardly be better. They’ve already been picked up by luxury New York store Massimo Bizzochi, which sits sandwiched between Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney in the Meatpacking District. “Just this week we’ve had product going into Skibo Castle as well,” she adds, “and they called us to say they sold three pieces yesterday.”
They have been meeting potential contacts in Dubai and have no qualms about their desire to become a multi-million-pound international brand within five years. Each season will see one or two subtle changes to the collection. But, says Robertson: “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel every season, I want these to become staple pieces. We’re moving along quite tentatively and reacting to what our customers want.”
The future, she says, will hopefully see Strathberry on the red carpet – “we’ve already had a couple of requests” – and perhaps even some interesting collaborations with other designers. “We’re working with a couple of exciting faces,” says Robertson secretively, “so we’ll see what happens there. There’s lots of potential.”