Fur flies as Scots fashion council accused of 'confusing the message'

AN INDEPENDENT council to promote Scottish fashion designers launches today with the backing of the industry's leading lights.

But the launch has taken a slight knock amid rumours of a disagreement with the British Fashion Council (BFC) and other existing bodies who claim it will confuse the market.

The Scottish Fashion Council has been set up by the TFF Agency, the PR firm behind the Scottish Fashion Awards, which wants to raise the profile of the country's growing band of young and cool designers such as Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders.

It has attracted some of the fashion world's best-known glitterati to its board, including Brian Rennie, creative director of the designer label Gant, Vogue model Kirsty Hume and Stacey Duguid, executive fashion editor at Elle magazine.

But sources say the council, which will be privately financed through sponsorship deals, has already ruffled a few feathers with existing bodies that work with emerging Scottish talent. "There are already a number of successful projects," said one source. "It's confusing the message a bit."

A spokeswoman for the BFC said it had no details about the Scottish council and its plans, and it expected to continue its own work with Scottish designers such as Kane, who was named new designer of the year at last year's British Fashion Awards. "It has only been brought to our very attention recently," the spokeswoman added.

But Tessa Hartmann, who will co-chair the council alongside Rennie of Gant, said a lot of the existing bodies such as the BFC support Scottish designers working in London, and there are many talented newcomers working and living north of the border who often get overlooked. Within Scotland, she said people living outside of the Central Belt also struggle to secure funding from Government-funded schemes.

"The BFC is an amazing organisation, run by leading fashion experts based in London, essentially working for the benefit of London as a city," she said. "Its principal operation is the growth and development of London Fashion Week and its fantastic schemes to assist fresh talent and young designers.

"The majority of designers that receive funding are all London based, because the reality is, that is where the British epicentre of fashion is and that's not going to change. This is about developing the talent that simply doesn't have the resources to move to London, to give them that 'leg up' and provide a platform for them. Whether this comes in the form of providing funding to create their first collection or put on their first catwalk show, then great.

"At some point in the future they will no doubt to looking to the British Fashion Council for funding but they need to start somewhere. We as a nation need to lay claim to our Scottish talent before they move on to the international scene so their heritage stays with them."

Hartmann did not rule out working with the BFC in future and said she has plans to meet members of the London-based council in October to talk about her own organisation's plans. She also raised the possibility of working with Scottish-based projects such as the Glasgow: Scotland With Style Design Collective, run by the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and the Scottish Government, and Scottish Enterprise's textiles team in future.

But, she argued, Scotland needs to take better ownership of its designers and textiles companies such Mackintosh Rainwear, and do more to promote Scottish fashion as a cutting edge brand.

"It's not just about walking up and down Fifth Avenue in New York in a kilt – we surpassed that years ago," she said. "The Scottish Fashion Council is anxious to see 'Fashion Scotland' as a brand managed and promoted in a better way. This is not a competition, it is simply about getting it right and we believe the potential for growth within the sector is huge, if we get it right."

The Scottish Fashion Council will launch a sponsorship programme called New Generation Scots for fashion graduates. It also intends to run a series of public lectures and discussions where emerging fashion designers can network with, and learn from, more established fashion executives such as Daniel Dunko, managing director of Mackintosh Rainwear, who will also sit on the council's board.

Also involved with the council are Lorraine Pringle, marketing director at Warehouse, Graeme Black, the designer behind Giorgio Armani's Black Label, and Jim McGonigle, managing director at the high street retailer USC.