At Full Kilt: Dressed to Kilt is here to stay

A HOST of high-profile Scots painted the Big Apple tartan for this year's Dressed to Kilt event in New York.

• Olympian Eve Muirhead walks the runway. Picture: Getty

Celebrities at the glamour event of Scotland Week, including Joan Jett and Mike Myers, plus Scots Alan Cumming, curling Olympic team captain Eve Muirhead and rugby player Thom Evans, strutted their stuff on the catwalk at the glittering charity fashion show.

Edinburgh-born Hollywood icon Sir Sean Connery and his wife, Micheline, hosted the event at the trendy Chelsea nightclub M2 Lounge in downtown Manhattan. The former 007 star was typically suave and understated in a black polo neck, Black Watch tartan jacket and black trousers, while Micheline was dressed head to toe in white, her leather jacket and trousers topped off with a white sporran. They arrived with their granddaughter, Saskia, who cuddled into Sir Sean before the cameras and took her hand as they mingled with friends backstage.

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Backstage before the show, New York property tycoon Donald Trump praised his host, saying: "The greatest thing ever to come out of Scotland was my mother – and the next best thing was Sean Connery."

Asked why she wasn't wearing a kilt, Donald Trump's leggy model wife joked that her husband had "the best legs". Donald Trump Jnr represented the family on the catwalk, though he received a cool reception from the crowd as he waved to his father in the VIP box.

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In pictures: Injured rugby star Thom Evans joins Dressed To Kilt show

The Connerys sat with Trump and his model wife, Melania, in a private balcony. They watched as a parade of Scottish, Scots-American and American celebrities paraded down the catwalk in tartan creations of every imaginable cut, colour and style. The catwalk was flanked by a crowd of revellers who cheered on the participants while upstairs VIPs drank whisky cocktails and champagne while watching the high-gloss show below.

Dressed in a kilt and blue Superman T-shirt with a lion rampant in the centre, Austin Powers and Shrek star Mike Myers kicked off the fashion show. Accompanied by two pipers, the Canadian actor, who is proud of his Scottish roots, did a few steps of a Highland fling then walked jauntily down the catwalk, stopping to strike a cheeky pose for the cameras.

One of the biggest cheers of the night went to Aberfeldy-born actor Alan Cumming. His version of the Frank Sinatra song That's Life belted over the sound-system as he sashayed in a three-piece kilt suit. The crowd cheered as Cumming bent down and fished a Tunnock's caramel wafer from under his kilt and threw it towards them.

Cumming, who recently appeared on the catwalk with Naomi Campbell at the supermodel's Fashion for Relief Haiti NYC 2010 charity event, said he would take the catwalk in his stride. He said: "Once you've followed Naomi, anything else is a piece of cake." Asked what he loved most about Scotland, Cumming, who is based in New York, said: "I love the spirit and the openness and the sense of justice and fairness." Joan Jett scored cheers and wolf whistles with a huge feather Mohican, a long PVC coat, bra top and kilt. However, many people were left disappointed when Scottish film star Gerard Butler pulled out at the last minute, with some complaining that he was the reason they'd bought tickets.

The crowd whooped as Hollywood and Broadway actor Matthew Modine walked on, wearing plus fours and carrying a bicycle. Dressed in a black polo neck and tasteful grey and brown kilt, Sex and the City star Kyle MacLachlan confessed before the show that he was nervous. Asked if he would lift his kilt and prove he was a true Scotsman, he joked: "That would probably empty the whole place."

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Wearing vivid pink and yellow tartans, TV interiors makeover duo and real-life partners Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister silenced the Scots and Americans in the audience with a passionate kiss for the cameras. Upstaging Colin and Justin, the prize for the most flamboyant outfit of the evening went to Fiona Hyslop, minister for culture and external affairs, who wore a bright blue gown by Scottish designer Sandra Murray. She didn't appear in the show but walked the red carpet and mingled with the international media backstage.

"Tonight's event is for such a good cause. You can have the razzmatazz and fashion and design but it is important to remember that it's for a very worthwhile charity," said Ms Hyslop.

She added: "Dressed to Kilt is about modern Scotland and the mixture of tradition and modern culture. It provides a fantastic opportunity to promote the creative talent of Scottish designers and the innovative use of Scotland's high-quality textiles on an international platform."

Among the Scottish designers and textiles and fashion companies taking part were Deryck Walker, 21st Century Kilts, Joey D, Holland & Sherry, Vivienne Westwood and Mackintosh.

Edinburgh-born actress Louise Linton, who was crowned Most Stylish Scot 2009, flew in from Hollywood to attend the event. The star said: "It's great to be here with my brethren. The Erskine Hospital is a cause which is very dear to my heart."

Eve Muirhead, the UK Olympic curling team champion, wore a sporty outfit and pretended to brush the ice as she took to the catwalk. Rugby player Thom Evans, who sustained a serious neck injury playing for Scotland in a Six Nations match against Wales in February, was fit enough to strut his stuff. He wore a white patterned kilt, a Scotland rugby top and boots. Evans said: "This is something new for me but once it starts I'll be fine. I'm having so much fun being here – New York is such a crazy good place."

Carol Smillie and her daughter, Christie, wore matching pink and blue silk and tartan creations and 23-year-old Miss Scotland, Katherine Brown, from Dunblane, walked down the catwalk to Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream. She wore a huge red tartan gown by Glasgow-born designer Gwen Russell with a bustier and no skirt at the front and joked she was worried about tripping over her dress. "Thankfully I've got long legs," she said.

The only sombre note of the evening came as the presenters, Geoffrey Scott Carroll and Peter Morris called for the music to be switched off and silence from the crowd. They then paid tribute to the Scots and American soldiers who'd lost their lives or been seriously injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing many in the audience to tears. Several war veterans who had lost limbs took part in the catwalk show, with one lifting his fellow soldier's kilt to the top of his prosthetic leg.

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The organisers also paid tribute to the designer Alexander McQueen who took his own life earlier this year, and dedicated the night to his memory.

• Scotland Week runs until the weekend with events taking place across North America and features the Tartan Day Parade in New York on Saturday.

'Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater'

THIS week's Dressed To Kilt fashion show, part of the Tartan Week programme which promotes all things Scottish in the USA, might be a turn-off to some Scots.

From time to time I hear Scots bemoaning the global stereotype of Scotland as the shortbread-tin home to all that is tartan, whisky-flavoured and resonant of lochs, glens and hairy long-horned cattle.

I completely understand the feeling. But as a brand adviser I strongly urge against any moves to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Sure it's true that Scotland has a richly textured story to tell which goes way beyond the clichs: but don't underestimate the power and benefit of positive clich. Clichs represent an emotional access point: a way in to the "brand" of Scotland. They make it easy and appealing for people to approach the brand, and in my brand book that's a powerful, and enviable asset.

And it should be remembered too that Scotland's most powerful clichs are hugely positive ones, from landscape to whisky, from knitwear to fresh air, from prudence to trusted accent. There are dozens of countries of similar size, and larger, that would give a great deal to be burdened with your stereotypes, thank you very much.

And smart Scots in every field will also play with the stereotypes: subverting them, reshaping them and refreshing them. And that's all vital and completely right for the nation brand.

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But creative subversion needs a starting point, so I believe Scotland should never be shy or embarrassed about its images of tartan, or whisky, or even shortbread.

Successful branding, whether for companies, organisations, or places, is about the creation of meaning. Meaning that is authentic, distinctive and emotionally compelling.

Facts are never enough, no matter how impressive. It's not facts that make people become emotionally wedded to brands. It is story. Stories in words and pictures. In movies, in products, in individual people, even in fabrics and patterns.

It's easy to knock Dressed To Kilt as an opportunity for a bunch of luvvies to show off their (in some cases questionable) Scottish roots. A chance to wear a kilt as a kind of fancy-dress novelty.

But resist the temptation of cynicism. If a bunch of Yanks wish they were Scottish enough to wear a kilt without embarrassment, isn't that indicative of the power of the Scottish brand worldwide, and a reason for celebration? Scotland, as I'm sure you don't need an Anglo-Irishman to tell you, is one of the world's favourite nations.

• Simon Middleton is the founder of Brand Strategy Guru and author of Build A Brand In 30 Days.