A student at Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design in the Scottish Borders is to have her textile design woven in Yorkshire by a royal weaver and made into a men’s sports jacket by a Savile Row tailor in London.
Lois Cowie, 22, from Buckie in Morayshire in the north-east of Scotland, won a student textile design challenge set by Huddersfield Fine Worsteds, an internationally renowned cloth maker in West Yorkshire whose customers include the royal family, and Huntsman, a celebrated bespoke tailoring house that has outfitted European royalty and stars of stage and screen, including actress Nicole Kidman and musician David Bowie.
The companies challenged third year BA (Hons) Design for Textiles students at Heriot-Watt’s School of Textiles and Design in Galashiels to design a new fabric for menswear sports jacketing with the potential to be produced commercially and with a bold design that was a bit different.
I’m really chuffed to have won this challenge, as I put a lot of work into it.
Lois created a design inspired by the sandstone tenements of Glasgow, where she lived for two years while studying. Before weaving samples of cloth on the School’s looms, she built the design virtually using computer modelling software for weavers that was invented in the Borders.
“I’m really chuffed to have won this challenge, as I put a lot of work into it,” Lois said. “My design is inspired by the contrasts in Glasgow’s Merchant City, where I used to live. It’s full of 17th century buildings and lots of people working in serious jobs. But it’s a different place at night, with lots of clubbing and celebration. I tried to reflect that in my use of colours, with beiges for the sandstone buildings and reds and pinks for the night-time aspects.”
Lois said she was inspired to study textile design because her grandmother was a kiltmaker and she has always loved sewing and craft. The four-year BA (Hons) Design for Textiles degree at Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design prepares graduates for careers in the fashion and interior textile design industries.
Lois’s design will now be woven into a 60-metre length of cloth by Huddersfield Fine Worsteds, before being tailored into a jacket by Huntsman and displayed in its window on Savile Row, a street in Mayfair, central London, that is famous for its luxury tailoring.
Iain Milligan, Managing Director of Huddersfield Fine Worsteds and Campbell Carey, the Head Cutter and Creative Director at Huntsman, both trained in Galashiels at The Scottish College of Textiles, the forerunner to Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design.
Iain said: “We were very impressed with the quality of the students’ work and it made finding a winner very tough. Campbell and I are both from Glasgow, so we were drawn towards Lois’s Glasgow-inspired design. But we also liked the big and bold design, which will work well as a woven cloth and will look good in Huntsman’s window.”
Campbell said the quality of all the students’ work was “unbelievably good” and added: “What’s particularly remarkable is that the students have really only had two years to learn and get up to speed with weaving, which isn’t easy, as it’s a very time-consuming process. But we could really see the hard work and passion of the students coming through.”
Four students were also given commendations for their work in the project. These were Emma Gall, Lisa McCallum, Aimee McCallum and Rebecca Russell, all from the third year of the BA (Hons) Design for Textiles course.
Iain and Campbell will consider the commercial potential of some of the other student textile designs as part of their next steps. The weaving and tailoring of Lois’s textile design is expected to take around 12 weeks.
Fiona Pankhurst, Assistant Professor in Woven Textile Design at Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design, said: “My students have worked incredibly hard to create beautiful designs, drawing inspiration from diverse sources, so it’s wonderful to hear such positive feedback from Campbell and Iain, who are key figures in the fashion and textile industries."
Huddersfield Fine Worsteds has roots as far back as 1532. The company is the only cloth merchant to hold a Royal Warrant to supply cloth to The Royal Household. Huntsman was established in 1849 and notably inspired the luxury tailor house setting of the Kingsman movie trilogy.
Woollen yarn for the project is being supplied by Knoll Yarns, a Yorkshire-based supplier of lambswool and pure new wool yarns to the UK and global knitwear and weaving industries.
Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design dates back to 1883, when classes in weaving, dyeing and chemistry were introduced to train workers for the local textiles industry.
The School is a centre of excellence in design, with Honorary Graduates including British fashion icon Dame Vivienne Westwood. It is based on Heriot-Watt’s Scottish Borders Campus, which is built around a historic mill in Galashiels, at the heart of Scotland's luxury textile industry.