Kelpies sculptures inspire new Scots fashion range

Iona Crawford's new collection. Pictures: Stanton Imaging/Contributed
Iona Crawford's new collection. Pictures: Stanton Imaging/Contributed
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“THEY are breathtaking,” says designer Iona Crawford of Andy Scott’s sculpture, The Kelpies. “It’s such a fantastically groundbreaking art piece and a very brave thing for both Falkirk and Scotland.”

Glasgow-based Crawford, 28, has recently launched her Beauty and the Beasts collection – inspired by Scott’s most recent and dramatic work.

The pair have been friends since meeting in New York three years ago, where they “ended up on the same rooftop terrace with a glass of wine”. The designer was also responsible for introducing Scott to the American Scottish Foundation, which resulted in his Kelpies maquettes being positioned in Manhattan’s Bryant Park in March and April this year.

Crawford is, as she says, “an advocate of collaborating with other creatives,” so last year she visited Scott’s aircraft hangar-sized studio in Maryhill (“it’s so huge that he uses a Portakabin inside it as an office,” she says) to ask if she could use his work as a source of inspiration.

“He was really honoured,” she explains. “He gave me some old photographs of things that inspired him, which stem back to his grandfather who kept heavy horses, as well as 3D-style drawings that are used when they create the steel panels for The Kelpies.”

The results include Crawford’s “showpiece” – the Hanneke dress, which is named after Scott’s wife. This floor-length, sculptural frock is inspired by saddlery, with a waist that’s neatly gathered at the crook of the back, and a print that features the silhouette of a horse’s head on Madras lace.

“That was woven with Ayrshire’s Morton Young and Borland – the most beautiful lace mill,” Crawford says. “I explained to them what I wanted – a graphic print of The Kelpies’ heads but blown up to such a scale that it’s not obvious because of the cut of the dress.”

In the 25-piece collection, the working horse and saddlery theme continues with the leather used for the Trapper Noir kilt, and the Torquil dress, with leather shoulders cut in a way that’s reminiscent of the hame on a working Clydesdale.

The bodycon Sadie dress features a rainbow-hued pattern that resembles sunlight reflecting off metal, but is actually, Crawford explains, taken from an abstract image of legs in a bath.

To promote the collection, this Edinburgh College of Art graduate and her friend, Matt Brown of MB Production, shot a video, available to view on her website, featuring the collection’s central piece, the Hanneke dress. It features a willowy model, wearing the long and billowing black and grey frock while climbing up a sheer cliff face.

“People say it looks like it was shot in Portugal,” says Crawford. “But it was actually February at Silver Sands in Aberdour. The girl in the film is a qualified climber and deep sea diver, as well as a model, so she fitted the bill perfectly.”

According to Crawford, the model was free climbing without ropes, as the crew stood at the bottom of the cliff with hard hats on. The dress, and the girl, survived the experience unscathed.

This is the kind of stunt that perfectly reflects the theatricality and drama of Crawford’s work, as does her title for the new collection.

“That started off as a joke,” she explains. “Andy and I were discussing the collaboration and he kept referring to us as beauty and the beast, then that became the term I used for my pieces compared with The Kelpies.

“It works because of the contrasts in our practices. There’s the difference in scale and there’s the delicate nature of what I do. Also, fashion – even menswear – is quite a feminine industry. Then there’s the steel of what he does. When you see him in his welding gear and boiler suit he’s a really masculine presence.”

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• To view Crawford’s Beauty and the Beasts collection, see