THE death of a loved one and a passion for Scotland helped a 37-year-old entrepreneur launch a Highlands-based luxury tartan textile business like no other
PRICKLY Thistle founder Clare Campbell had already established herself as a successful businesswoman when she decided to embark on a whole new career based on creating bespoke traditional Scottish tartan.
After working closely with a Highland interior architecture and soft furnishings business as a commercial accountant, the 37-year-old decided to create her own luxury brand, one that that capitalised on a network of endangered local artisan skills.
”I have always had a subconscious need for a challenge,” she explains. “And after many years of working for others I decided to start my own business in the Highlands – a business built on my personal passion and committed to positive economic impact for Scotland as an export organisation.”
“My first instinct is always to challenge perceived wisdom, always to ask: ‘why not?’ and the genesis of Prickly Thistle grew out of three questions I needed answers to.” The first was a challenge to herself to establish a world class textile design studio from her base in the Highlands. She also wanted to integrate heritage into her designs beyond surface-level flourishes. Lastly, she asked herself, “How can I establish a business that reflects my personal values: pride in a sense of place, pride in Made In Scotland craft skills and pride in manufacturing something unique that resonates with people at a profound emotional level?”
The death of her brother helped Campbell find the resolve to commit to her project. The loss also underlined the strong pull to objects, places and people imbued with the fondest memories – a notion which built the foundation of Prickly Thistle.
“To this day it’s something that ties me to home, here in Ross-shire, and to family,” she says. “Life can change in an instant and that’s what’s led me to my tartan journey: a process that is personal, that has substance and is produced the traditional way, with highly specialised craftspeople.”
Campbell’s innovative business offers a completely unique experience for tartan lovers. Prickly Thistle is the only Scottish business that can oversee the creation of unique, personal tartans to order, which can then be given the stamp of approval of the official tartan register held by the Scottish Tartan Authority in Edinburgh.
She explains: “There are producers that can design or make your tartan, there are companies that can make products, furnishings and garments and companies that can provide something solely from their own mill.
“Prickly Thistle is the first company to fully integrate the process. This means when you take your tartan journey the result is both personal to you and genuinely unique – something that you’ve overseen from start to finish.”
After the research and design process, the created fabric can be used for various interiors through the help of a second-generation Selkirk weaver, Robin Elliot, and artisans capable of transforming the bespoke fabric into everything from blinds to bedsteads, soft furnishings to furniture hewn from reclaimed Highland timber.
Campbell is now set to embark on the next step in her new venture which cleverly coincides with New York’s Tartan Day tomorrow, a date that also recalls the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath. The day of celebration will see a new international website launched alongside a commemorative tartan called Tartan Journey.