By: Amara Tamborini
Our latest adventure introduced us to one of Scotland’s oldest traditions and the finest kilt and tartan designer, Kinloch Anderson. We arrived at an underwhelming building on a gloomy day in the city center of Edinburgh. There were no windows or displays, just a simple sign over the door that read “Kinloch Anderson”. I expected very little at first glance, but was instantly overwhelmed by endless patterns and elegant mannequins dressed in high end suits and kilts as I walked in to the store room floor. We were greeted by a cheerful old woman named Deirdre Kinloch Anderson. Her frail and fragile frame somehow managed to hold up a traditional women’s tartan skirt that I would soon find out is much heavier than it appears to be. Without hesitation, she began to tell us the history of the kilt, tartan and the Kinloch Anderson company. for just about a century and a half, Kinloch Anderson has been producing the traditional Scottish kilt and tartans. What started off a small tailoring business run by a father and his two sons has since been passed down through six generations. Over all of the years, the family has maintained the tradition and techniques of making and wearing kilts and tartans. As she spoke of her company and country’s history, it was clear how passionate she was. Her face lit up and her eyes glistened with pride. Throughout my amazing journey through the United Kingdom, I have encountered many countries, cultures and traditions. No man, women or population has come close to the deep sense of pride and passion expressed by Deirdre. The sense of pride has been embedded in the family company’s frameworks and is what keeps them in business. Because of their devotion to the tradition, their workmanship does not take any shortcuts. Each kilt is hand designed, fitted and stitched for the customer. One kilt takes eight hours at the minimum to hand fold, stitch and press. Each horizontal and vertical line stitched in the tartan must be perfectly aligned at every crease. This not only requires great skill and training to comprise, but the tailor must also truly love what they do to put so much time and effort in to one piece of clothing. The process brought me back to my days as a ballerina where I would meticulously stitch the ribbons and bands on to my pointe shoes. Each stitch must lay perfectly flat against the canvas shoe to prevent any visible bumps or blemishes as well as ensuring a clean and comfortable fit. I patiently spent hours sewing those baby pink silk ribbons to the shoes, being careful not to tear the fabric. I pricked my fingers and suffered intense cramps from clenching the tiny needle, but I did it for the love of dance. I spent the time to ensure that nothing would prevent me from perfecting my craft. It is clear that the Kinloch Anderson family has devoted a century and a half to ensure the highest quality product and perfecting their craft. I was in awe of the beautiful pieces that they have created over the years. Their collection consists of thousands of tartans and many high end customers including the Royal Family. Their work is clearly superb if it is deemed worth of royals. After our time at Kinloch Anderson, I retracted all of my doubts or judgments about the establishment and left with an approbation for the culture and craft. There is no need for flashy window displays or large marketing campaigns. The long standing high quality work has created a strong brand that is respected and known by many. Their devotion to the Scottish tradition and culture has created a brand that speaks for itself.