Catherine Aitken- Designer Spotlight
Historically synonymous with aristocratic hunting party attire and latterly stuffy men's suits, Harris Tweed was given a stylish make over by Vivienne Westwood in the 1980s and we've never looked back since. The latest creative to set tweed trending is none other than Scottish handbag and accessories designer, Catherine Aitken! In the last year Catherine's brand has grown significantly and her designs are now stocked throughout the UK, Europe and the US. Success peaked when the Edinburgh based designer was asked to collaborate with national icon, Judy Murray for the Cromlix Hotel collection in July 2015. We caught up with Catherine to find out more about her design journey and the latest festival inspired collection Spring/Summer 2016!
Hi Catherine! We love your latest S/S 2016 collection. Tell us about it!
I love this time of year when the evenings are lighter and the Festival season begins. The ability to move freely at festivals is very important. The Voyager Hip and the Wristlet clutch are two new pieces that can hold all you valuables and be worn easily but won’t stop you dancing! I have mixed new designs with brighter colours to show that tweed can still be worn in a British field during the summer.
You work a lot with tweed and other ethical and locally sourced materials. Why is this important to you?
I do not want to have a heavy carbon footprint as both a designer and an individual. Working locally with global horizons suits me as it is of prime importance that my designs are all sustainable. I embrace slow fashion and I just can’t resist the wealth of materials that Scotland has to offer- perfect for our climate and beyond!
Three years ago you left film production to start your own label. How has your experience in film and television influenced your designs?
I’ve always been obsessed by handbags in films, especially in the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Other films of the same period seemed to glorify the handbag in a way different to today. I love films like "Now, Voyager" for its fabulous collection of clutches and I’m also influenced by the clothing of the stars, particularly Katharine Hepburn’s androgynous style and Edith Head’s wonderful designs for Hitchcock’s women. Inspiration comes from contemporary films too such as "Mad Max Fury Road" – I drew influence from that in my Renaissance Collection, which I update from time to time using recycled clothing.
Since you have showcased in New York and, most recently, partnered up with Judy Murray to create a bespoke Harris Tweed collection for the Cromlix Hotel Collection. What was it like working in collaboration with a public figure?
The whole process has been really enjoyable and it was great to get the chance to work with Judy and her colleagues. It was a very relaxed collaboration- I adapted some of my styles for the Cromlix Collection but also created new ones to fit the remit of what Judy would like. The fusion of both resulted in a unique collection.
You offer a bespoke service for both men and women. What do you think the trick is to crafting individual style?
It’s something that works for you, isn’t it? I love adding extra pockets, interesting linings and the right kind of strap. For me, it is all about creating something special, whether it be for a businessman or woman, or for someone with a casual dress sense. It’s a pleasure to do and I enjoy giving customers what they want.
You have been on the Scottish design scene for a while now, what is your biggest achievement to date?
My greatest achievement is that I am still here doing what I love! When I started out, handbag design provided an extra income whilst I was trying to get my features off the ground but since, it has turned into a real passion. I cannot imagine going back now, although I do miss working in such a passionate and collaborative way as you do with film. Working with Judy Murray has been great and I was overwhelmed to have been contacted by Agostino Ropolo of Church's, who was brought on board at Prada after his role as Head of Fashion at LVMH. It was wonderful that someone like Agostino Ropolo had actually noticed my designs and liked them enough to get in touch- it was the Hayworth Handbag that caught his eye. Following such an achievement, I am excited to see what the future has in store.
Similarly, what has been the biggest challenge to date?
Since up scaling the business, local manufacturing has posed a tough challenge.
Finally, what advice would you give Scottish designers looking to pursue a career in design?
Always be true to yourself and let your imagination go wild. Say yes to all opportunities that come your way.