From stalwarts to stars: Scotland's top fashion designers

From stalwarts to stars: Scotland's top fashion designers

7 Mins

Scottish fashion designers Holly Fulton, Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders have enjoyed huge success over the last decade; now a whole host of fresh faces are entering the fray.

Within 48 hours of showing his final MA collection at Central Saint Martins in London, Jonathan Saunders was commissioned to design prints for Alexander McQueen. It was an impressive start to a career that has seen Saunders bestowed with numerous accolades and attract global fans such as Michelle Obama.

And it’s not only Saunders who has shaped and continues to shape the Scottish fashion industry. Typified by her bold, geometric prints, Holly Fulton’s fashion credentials include winning the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN award in 2010, not to mention collaborating with luxury handbag retailer Radley. Likewise, Christopher Kane burst onto the fashion scene in 2006 to a rapturous reception; he has expertly navigated the transition between high fashion and high street, creating sought-after collections for Topshop.

“Holly Fulton, Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders have elevated the Scottish fashion industry on a global scale,” says Gordon Millar, founder of Scot Street Style. “All three were nominated in the Designer of the Year category at the Scottish Fashion Awards, which captured the imagination of the worldwide media outlets, keeping Scotland current and relevant.”

Fashion never stands still however, and there is now a gamut of new vibrant labels and designers looking to make their mark on the industry. Gordon highlights the likes of Dead Sleekit, Isolated Heroes and Rachel McMillan to name but a few. “I'm particularly excited by KellyDawn Riot, a leader in the field of sustainability, and Siobhan MacKenzie, with a unique vision for contemporary Scottish dress,” he adds.

Gordon believes a combination of investment and encouragement will ensure their future success and that of the industry itself: “There is a new wave of confidence in the emerging social media-savvy generation, which must be nurtured and encouraged. Investment of course will help, but drive and perseverance are absolutely essential for the future of the Scottish fashion industry.”

We take a closer look at six more of the industry’s young labels and designers who undoubtedly have the drive to succeed


What’s striking about Emily Millichip’s designs is her confident use of colour, evident in her recent collaboration with graphic artist Gabriella Marcella on a capsule collection of limited edition tops in bold hues. Nominated for Young Designer of the Year at the 2015 Scottish Fashion Awards, the Edinburgh based designer draws inspiration from seemingly unlikely places, such as cheap red wine, trash culture and the 1950s.


A panda baby shower, cats in fancy dress and a robbery in a sweet shop: Karen Mabon’s silk scarves are charmingly pretty, illustrating whimsical compositions that capture your imagination. She established her eponymous label in 2012 and regularly receives commissions from the likes of Anthropologie. The ever-venerable Liberty is only one of a raft of stockists where you can purchase her wearable pieces of art. .


Launched in 2012 by CEO Samantha McEwen, following her much admired graduate collection, Isolated Heroes has attracted a cult following in a very short time, with Miley Cyrus, Pixie Lott and Mollie King counted among the label’s fans. Recognised for its oversized silhouettes and intricate use of luxury faux fur and sequins, the label’s fun and ebullient pieces are hand crafted in Scotland.


Iain MacDonald’s unconventional prints are the stars of the label’s show; the fabrics are digitally printed with Iain’s hand illustrated designs, making for unique, edgy garments. A previous recipient of The Herald’s Scottish Online Fashion Graduate of the Year, Iain established his Glasgow based independent label Dead Sleekit in 2015 and has built up an impressive reputation since.


For those aspiring for fashion that doesn’t play by the rules, Mairi McDonald’s seasonless womenswear epitomises laidback glamour. Marrying together luxe Scottish textiles such as lace, silks and fine lamb nappa, Mairi creates ‘forever’ investment pieces that are effortlessly cool and highly covetable. She began her career at Julien Macdonald, followed by a stint at Givenchy before launching her own label in 2014.


After gaining experience with London based Felder Felder, Rachel McMillan set up her urban, contemporary label in her home city of Glasgow. Alongside a focus on sustainability, the label’s signature is its artistic printed textiles designed by Rachel in house. It was recently announced that as one of Scotland's emerging designers, Rachel will be supported by Fashion Foundry, a programme run by Cultural Enterprise and Creative Scotland and partnered with Topshop/Topman.

words Christina McPherson


Fashion Designers / Scottish textiles / fashion

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