Sanquhar Pattern Knitwear Hits the Big Time at London Fashion Week

A new range of knitwear produced in the Upper Nithsdale town of Sanquhar has become the centre of attention in the fashion world recently. The special designs were commissioned by young Scottish fashion designer, Samantha McCoach, who is the creative director of ‘Le Kilt’, a successful fashion business based in London. The range of designer knitwear, featuring the historic pattern with a very modern twist, featured in Le Kilt’s new Autumn/Winter collection, which was launched at the 2016 London Fashion Week on the 19th February Samantha discovered Sanquhar Pattern Designs, the knitting initiative run by A’ the Airts community arts and crafts centre, at a Scottish textiles event last year. She trawled the archives of Sanquhar knitting, which gave her the inspiration to use a selection of the historic patterns to design an exciting new range of new knitwear.  She then approached the arts centre in January to ask if the Sanquhar knitters could produce bespoke knitwear to complement her new forthcoming designer collection for the Fashion Week Launch. Elma Clark, the Sanquhar Knitting project’s supervisor and trainer, took up the challenge and produced prototype garments to Samantha’s design specifications, using specialised knitting design software. The knitwear was machine knitted and lovingly finished by hand. Vivienne Duncan, A’ the Airts’ assistant manager and one of the Sanquhar knitters in her spare time, was also commissioned to  hand knit Sanquhar gloves to enhance the range, complete with the designer brand’s name ‘Le Kilt’ knitted into the cuff in the traditional manner. Both Elma and Viv put in an enormous amount of time to complete the special order and the complete range of knitwear arrived with Samantha in London just in time for the launch of her new collection on the first day of Fashion Week. Just the week before, having received the first consignment of knitwear, Samantha was so delighted with the styling and quality she immediately commissioned Elma to produce another two totally new designs before the launch. It was Elma’s hard work and commitment that made this possible. Images of the new Le Kilt collection were immediately posted on Vogue magazine’s website, with the Sanquhar pattern inspired knitwear prominently featured and the collection has attracted a huge amount of attention on social media. Samantha, who was brought up in Leith, founded Le Kilt in 2014 with a vision of adding a dash of modernity to her family’s kilt-making heritage. Her grandmother has been a traditional kilt maker in Scotland for over 40 years and through Samantha's teenage years she would observe her grandmother expertly tailoring kilts and other traditional staples from fine Scottish tartan.  This love of tartan inspired the creation of Samantha’s brand Le Kilt. She has continued the tradition and re-appropriated the style into her modern designer range. She had always planned that the “kiltie” core of her new spring collection for 2016 should be complemented by key garments and accessories, all with nod and a wink to Samantha's, wistfully nostalgic Scots background. It is anticipated that her new collection, including knitwear produced in Sanquhar, will be available on a ‘made to order’ basis through Le Kilt’s own website, reaching Samantha’s established global market. Her designs are also currently stocked in the London and Edinburgh branches of Harvey Nicols and Dover Street Market.

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