Araminta Campbell, alpaca apostle: Fashion, Scotland on Sunday

The homegrown yarn, as well as the handcrafted finish, set Araminta Campbell's textiles apart

Araminta Campbell in her Edinburgh studio Picture: © Sandy Young Photography

Araminta Campbell, a young Scottish textile designer, specialises in handwoven alpaca accessories and bespoke tweed and tartan design.

From her studio in Leith, Edinburgh, Campbell was inspired to work in alpaca because her mother is allergic to wool. She now creates scarves, throws, accessories and tweeds. Raised in the North East, the 30-year-old is inspired by the Scottish landscape, passionate about celebrating traditional weaving techniques and craftsmanship, and delighted that alpacas come in 22 shades. She has just launched a Signature Collection of four handwoven designs, each of which can take up to ten days to produce on a heritage loom and is completely unique.

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What do you do?

Pebble Narrow Scarf, £850, Minta Allium Blanket in grey and white, £680, Minta Herringbone cushion, £180 Pictures: Gerarardo Jaconelli

Our textiles studio specialises in one off-luxurious British alpaca accessories, handwoven here in our Edinburgh workshop. Our MINTA collection is a contemporary designer interiors range of cushions and throws. Signature is a curated collection of scarves, shawls and blanket wraps. Heritage is a bespoke tweed and tartan service, which allows our clients to create entirely unique designs for interiors, clothing, accessories and so on.

What is your training/background?

I trained as an embroidery artist and graduated with a degree in fine art textiles from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2011. I’d always had a passion for textiles, nature and the outdoors, I grew up in the countryside and that’s where the inspiration for my designs comes from.

I’m self-taught in weaving, although it didn’t grab me initially, it frustrated me. Ironically, it’s a craft that now drives me. I began learning in the final few weeks of my degree, but it wasn’t long before I was completely captivated.

Pebble Shawl, £1,400

I started out selling handwoven artworks to collectors. Alpaca fibre came into the frame when I began designing and weaving a scarf as a gift for my mother. She’s allergic to wool, so I decided to research alternatives. Alpaca fleece is completely hypo-allergenic. It’s beautifully soft, comes in 22 natural colours and is the only luxury fibre you can source from UK farms. Cashmere and silk have to be imported, which is why I work with alpaca – sustainability is extremely important to me.

This was a personal project but with the inevitable word of mouth, I ended up selling all of the scarves. However, I’m happy to say every time we produce a new collection, my mother’s always keen to have the first viewing.

Why did you decide to set up the company?

After finishing up an internship in a large corporate weaving company, I realised it really wasn’t for me. There just wasn’t enough of a connection between the design element and the weaving process. I really wanted more freedom, to push boundaries creatively and to create designs that were both technically challenging and imaginative.

Pine Cone Stole, £1,500

What is your aim?

I’m building our brand to be a destination luxury brand; to be acknowledged internationally for the artistry and quality of our designs.

We want to nurture and grow the weaving industry, encourage people to appreciate the artisan craftsmanship behind their investments, the passion and provenance behind the brand.

It’s important that we also create an environment where we can support and attract talent and employment opportunities in the Scottish woven textile industry. The industry has suffered from decline in the past but it’s on an upward trajectory, I believe there is a growing demand for Scottish produce and items. It’s important that traditional skills are passed on to the next generation in a forward-thinking and progressive way.

Staffa Blanket Wrap, £2,500

What’s different about your product?

Our Signature pieces are individual, completely exclusive and handmade. 
No two items are the same. Our story is also at the heart of everything, pieces of art that look and feel wonderful – whether it is a bespoke tweed that tells a story of the landscape or a handwoven scarf that has been woven from a single alpaca fleece from a farm in the Scottish Borders.

When did you start the company?  

I set up my weaving workshop in Aberdeenshire then moved to Edinburgh and founded Araminta Campbell Limited in 2014.

What challenges have you faced?

It has been a challenge being a young woman in male-dominated industry as well as the pressures of establishing and growing a business from scratch. There have been times where we’ve been put under pressure to change course, but we have remained true to our brand values.

Sycamore Blanket Wrap £2,500

What was the biggest surprise along the way?

Having worked for a number of years on my own, the biggest surprise was when I started to pull together a team – it showed me how much further we could grow. Bringing in other people with their own distinct skills and ideas will always help you build far more than you can do on your own.

What is the fun part of your business?

Creating new designs and speaking to clients and seeing them get really excited about something you have made. Fundamentally, that’s what drives me forward every day. I also love getting stuck into a new design challenge. It’s exciting to work with a client and help them create something very personal and unique for their families, businesses or personal use.

How has it evolved?

If you go back three years, it was just me in a tiny studio, now we have a team of five all working from a beautiful weaving workshop and studio on the shore in Edinburgh. We used to make products to sell at shows, but now we focus on clients and bespoke commissions with many clients coming to visit our studio and showroom. It is a much more intimate and creative process where our clients get to see the process first-hand and can appreciate the care and craftsmanship.

What have you learned?

To stay true to your passions, even if you encounter resistance. If you persevere and work hard it is amazing what you can achieve.

What is your most popular product?

Our Signature handwoven Blanket wrap. It is currently the largest item in our handwoven collection, and it definitely makes a statement. It’s hugely versatile, can be worn on its own as a coat, over the top of a light jacket for extra warmth, for formal wear or to just snuggle up on the sofa. Looks and feels incredible!

Who are your customers?

We work with a variety of customers, from hotels such as the Fife Arms in Braemar, which re-opens later this year, to Savile Row tailors, such as Featherstone London, and Country Estates, including Ballogie and Glen Tanar, with our bespoke tweed and tartan. We also work with retailers including Studio 104 in New York and interior designers with our MINTA interior accessories.

Which items do you have at home from your range?

There’s my own handwoven alpaca shawl, which I wore on my wedding day. It was the first time I had allowed myself to keep something I had made, and it felt special that every time I later wore it I would be reminded of that day.

It’s perfect for keeping me warm during an Edinburgh winter, but light enough to throw round my shoulders for a drinks party in the summer.

I’ve also got some of my MINTA soft cushions on my bed and I’m just about to have some furniture upholstered with my own tweed.

What’s your style philosophy?

Choose timeless, quality pieces that transcend fashion. Invest carefully. I love finding unique things, pieces that you won’t see elsewhere. I love grey too. The classics, not fashion.

Where are your products made?

All of them are made in Scotland.

Who has influenced your style?

I have never been particularly influenced by the world of fashion, but I have been excited to see young brands like Le Kilt doing new things with Scottish traditional dress. It’s helping to expand the way people see these historic designs.

Who are your style icons?

Coco Chanel – impeccable style, elegant but practical, and she was incredibly inventive with Scottish tweed. And I always think Amal Clooney looks incredible…

Who are your favourite designers?

Stella McCartney. Her style is cool and classic. I have such admiration for the way she has raised the bar for ethical luxury fashion.

What is your inspiration?

The Scottish landscape has always been my chief inspiration – probably because that is where I am happiest. A walk or drive through the wilds of the Highlands or an afternoon at home in Royal Deeside is always inspiring, and I am constantly seeing ideas for a new design or combination of colours.

Araminta Campbell shawls start from £750, with blanket wraps up to £2,500,