Scottish Fashion Awards winners interviewed: Industry brain drain is a thing of the past

Scottish Designer of the Year Christopher Kane, in his own line and Versace
Scottish Designer of the Year Christopher Kane, in his own line and Versace
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Winners at the Scottish Fashion Awards last night were unanimous in the assertion that leaving Scotland is no longer a prerequisite for success in the industry, and indeed credited their roots as being influential in their rise.

Christopher Kane, who was named Designer of the Year at the ceremony, and dressed awards host Alexa Chung and Hall of Fame 2012 inductee Stella Tennant, acknowledged the rise in awareness of Scots working in the industry over the past few years, but said this is in fact nothing new: “There’s a lot of talent, there’s always been Scottish talent, a lot of it behind the scenes.

“Think of Joe McKenna, one of the biggest stylists in the world, who’s Scottish, and another friend of mine Tony Irvine who was up for an award, he’s a great stylist. There are so many people who you don’t hear about behind the scenes who are Scottish and have a great eye and are very talented.”

Of his win, Kane said: “It’s just good to be in Scotland, and obviously it was a big category, and one that included so many friends as well as designers I admire, so it’s a huge honour and I’m very proud. I went to college with Louise [Gray] and I know Jonathan [Saunders], and we’re very close in the sense we’ll always have fun together, put it that way.

“But everyone’s a winner in my eyes, everyone works extremely hard and their labours are at the forefront; everyone looks to Scottish and British designers for something new.”

On the influence of his nationality on his work, Kane, who brought his grandmother as his date to the awards, said: “I think the mentality of working hard, that really comes through, and my sense of humour. My personality comes from a really eccentric family, which is all good. It helps.”

Hayley Scanlan, winner of Young Designer of the Year – for whom the high point of the night was arriving back at her hotel room to find a bottle of champagne from her five-month-old-twin boys – was emphatic in her feeling that leaving Scotland is no longer necessary for creative success.

“It’s not as hard as you think, I don’t feel it’s a necessity to move to London because I’ve done probably equally as well here, and I live in Dundee. Where is that? That’s nowhere, do you know what I mean?

“I think I’ve been quite lucky [in terms of gaining recognition further afield]; I had Erin O’Connor buy a leather jacket from my degree show. I used the internet. I had a blog which I always kept up to date and I think it’s important to use the internet to get yourself out there, that is the main tool these days – Facebook and Twitter and so on.

“I don’t feel that not being based in London has been any kind of disadvantage. I seem to be doing alright so I don’t see why I need to move, and I get to be surrounded by my family and friends.”

Recipient of the Communicator of the Year award Faye McLeod, visual creative director at Louis Vuitton, cites a mentality she sees as typically Scottish as a factor in the success of fellow countrymen in the industry: “I think Scotland breeds amazing talent. I think in Scotland you become a go-getter, you’re a little bit more gritty because you have to be.

“There’s a book called Scots Invented the Modern World I always think of, and I think when you look back on all we’ve done there is a Scottish sensibility and a kind of essence of who you are. You take risks and you don’t really give a sh*t if you fall on your face. If you want it, you go get it. It’s quite a national mentality.

“The thing I like most is when I travel, and I travel a lot with Vuitton, and I meet other Scots and you’re like, hey! You can spot them a mile off because they’re always really gabby.”

Scottish Style Icon winner Karen Gillan cited geography as an influential factor in Scots’ success in creative industries, saying: “I’m from quite a rural area and we’re quite cut off from a lot of things and I really think that that goes towards having an imagination, and if you look at how many designers actually come out of Scotland, it’s a really high number and that’s really interesting.”

As a Scot-once-removed, Model of the Year winner Tali Lennox, daughter of Annie Lennox, spoke of what she sees as typical Scottish traits being a grounding factor for those who have reached the apex of the industry: “When I did my first season of runway, the first show I ever did was Christopher Kane, and he is just the nicest person in fashion. Jonathan Saunders as well is the most lovely person, and Louise Gray; all of them are so, so talented but extremely humble and I think that’s a thing about Scottish people, they are just so humble and so friendly.”

While for Jonathan Daniel Pryce, winner of Young Photographer of the Year, humility is in some ways a quality Scots in the spotlight need to shake off: “The one thing I would say is it’s time for Scottish people to be proud, be loud about being proud, don’t be shy to be the best.”