This week, in conjunction with our friends at J Boult Designs, we take a look at the wonderful craftsmanship of Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers. Nestled into the Edinburgh Old Town, they have been trading in handmade kilts and highlandwear since April 2009.
Like ourselves they are a proud member of the Artisans of Edinburgh, a collective of city makers, designed to showcase the contemporary artisanal skill of fine crafts folk in Edinburgh. We spoke with Emma at the Kiltmakers who gave us an insight into their story, design process and inspirations.
Can you tell us how your business got started?
In 2009 Gordon opened the doors of 189 Canongate as Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers. With 30 years experience in the highlandwear industry already, Gordon and his wife Louise, wanted to make quality and skills the priority of the business above all others. And, that’s exactly what has been achieved. Over the past 11 years, GNK has created thousands of perfectly tailored handmade kilts with longevity, skill and quality at their core. Countless customers have been suited and booted in highlandwear outfits that stay true to tradition while standing out from the crowd. Tartans have been designed, woven and turned into beautiful products for both families and exceptionally high profile organisations alike – from Celtic FC and the Scotland National Team, to The University of Edinburgh and General Motors. Now, GNK is at the forefront of the highlandwear industry and is committed to training the next generation of kiltmakers in a bid to keep this iconic skill alive, through Edinburgh Kiltmakers Academy courses
Where do you look for inspiration when you are designing new products?
We consider “home” first and foremost. What captures Scotland and all the best parts of the landscape, the history, the people. We are fully committed to the “made in Scotland” ethos – from knowing exactly where the yarn of your tartans come from, to the very maker who will put your kilt together, we have the answer. We never forget this when designing something new. We keep in mind what showcases tradition but remain unafraid to consider a modern audience and their trends and wants. We recently worked closely with Lovat Mill, the very home of tweed, to develop an exclusive tweed for one of our best-selling kilts jackets. It’s this attention to detail, consideration of who’s involved in the whole process from manufacture to marketing that is the driving force in developing a new or updated product.
Tell us a bit more about how you make your products.
We make as much as we possibly can in house and we turn our hand to everything! From bow ties to dog collars, we really will take on any idea and bring it to life! We work exceptionally closely with out suppliers to bring the best quality products to our customers, products we know the full story of. Working with mills such as Lovat Mill, Lochcarron of Scotland and House of Edgar, all of whom share in our mindset, makes for a pretty seamless process resulting in the very best for our customers. In terms of kilts, we train our kiltmakers through intensive Edinburgh Kiltmakers Academy training – training that has earned global recognition. We can guarantee our kilts are all the finest quality regardless of which kiltmaker creates it, because they are all trained to an exacting standard.
What are your most popular products and which are your own favourites?
Thankfully, the demand for facemasks is gradually subsiding as we look to the future! This certainly was a popular product throughout 2020 with kiltmakers joking they deserved a new title of “Maskmaker”. Right now, thanks to the success of the Scotland National Football Team, our exclusive and official SNT tartan is flying out the door as eager fans prepare to watch Scotland play in the Euros 2020! Handmade kilts also remain our “trademark” product – as restrictions begin to lift and weddings as we remember them become a possibility again, groom’s outfits are building in momentum, which is great to see again. A couple of favourites among the team are, certainly, anything and everything made in our exclusive Highland Mist tartan, from kilts to shawls is a favourite. Flodden tartan is another favourite – designed to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden and capturing that story, this tartan means a great deal to both the GNK team and the people of the Scottish Borders. These are just a few! We are so proud of all of our beautiful handmade products in all of our exclusive tartans, and each and every kilt outfit created here!
If you had to pick one place in Scotland to recommend that people visit, where would it be?
189 Canongate, Royal Mile – pop in and say hello to us! We wholeheartedly recommend Edinburgh’s historic and beautiful old town of course! But beyond this we recommend taking a walk along the scenic John Muir Way from Dunbar to Helensburgh. Even walking a wee section of this place of great nature and environmental consciousness is a fantastic day out for the whole family.
Thanks so much to everyone at Gordon Nicholson Kiltmakers for taking the time to chat with us about the tremendous amount of thought and design that goes into each of their products. Take a look at their website and Facebook , Twittter and Instagram pages for more insights into their process and to try and pick your own favourites!