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Hand Embroidery To Highlandwear

Within the world of textiles, my story has taken many twists and turns. I started out as a printer before discovering the world of hand embroidery and embellishment after meeting Scottish designers Bebaroque while at college. Like a magpie, I was immediately hooked on this addictive and sparking pass-time which I ran with to turn into an internship, a job, commissions and international awards.


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H A N D & L O C K

In 2016, I went to Hand & Lock, a 250 year old embroidery atelier right in the beating heart of London. A studio steeped in history and excitement with a young attitude despite its age adaptable to an ever changing textiles scene...but, proudly staying true to its roots.

I initially went for two months...and ended up staying for four! While there, I worked on projects for Victoria Beckham, Burberry, Arsenal FC, Mr World to name a few. All equally awe inspiring for me who never did quite believe they were there and involved in such work.

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R E B U I L D

I returned to Edinburgh where I was in the midsts of studying BA(Hons) Textiles at Edinburgh College of Art and two years later, finalised by graduate collection achieving a First Class Honours. My graduate collection continued to delve deeply into the world of both traditional and contemporary embroidery using the theme of rebuilding after change or destruction as its premise. I took inspiration from both personal experience to drive my decisions metaphorically and texturally, and took equal amounts of visual inspiration from the harmonious nature of Edinburgh where old and new, natural and man made sit comfortably side by side.

I explored everything from glass beads to coins as embellishments, worked with metals such as bismuth and copper and fabrics from wool to silk. These contrasts also worked in harmony. The soft and hard, rough and soft working together to create a though provoking fusion which went on to the he Worshipful Company of Dyers Colour Award and the Incorporation of Bonnetmakers & Dyers of Edinburgh Collection Award and I was given a position as an Embroiderers Guild member.


Slide through to view some of the highlands from the 2018 Rebuild collection.

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H A N D & L O C K : T H E P R I Z E

Following graduation, I competed in the 2018 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery - the most prestigious competition in the embroidery world. The brief was Modern Morality, Material Alchemy - my graduate collection served as the perfect starting point. All of my research culminated in one look, a tailored suit and frock coat with heavily embellished epaulettes. It won!


Slide through to view the winning piece.

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W E L C O M E H I G H L A N D W E A R

The same week as bringing the Hand&Lock prize home to Scotland, I also became the first and only Queen Elizabeth Trust Scholar for kiltmaking. I knew my career wasn't to be in London despite loving my time there. My home was my inspiration and I wanted to give my skills and passion to the Scottish textiles industry. My other passion is history and culture and I wanted to do something that combined this with textiles - the answer was simple, kiltmaking! I began by combining the two - while formally training in tailoring kilts and got to work on a number of projects combining traditional highlandwear with embroidery.

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G L E N G A R R Y

The First was the Glengarry, slide through to view. Thousands of glass beads and metal purls layered on to a handmade velvet glengarry traditionally associated with pipers and the Highland Regiments, emulating the textures of Arthur's Seat.

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S T A G

Next, came something a bit different. I collected roe deer skulls, some of which are still in development, and created a piece which celebrated some form of life after death and nature always finding a way to claim back what it gave life to.

I told this story through embellishing heather inspired motifs in glass beads and crystals on to a skull. The skull will deteriorate over the time, but the embellishment will remain intact and beautiful.

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A M R I T E A C H D

I then got the opportunity as an Embroiderers Guild Scholar to create a full collection of embroidered highlandwear. Each look was inspired by a figure from Scottish history who's life still resonates in the cultural, social and political climate in Scotland today. I looked at Mary, Queen of Scots who lost her head at the order of Elizabeth I, her son James VI who united the crowns of Scotland and England, Bonnie Prince Charlie who united the Highland clans in a bid to restore a Stuart to the throne of Great Britain, and George IV, the Hanoverian monarch who become the first King to visit Scotland since 1633 and reinvigorated an appetite for tartan and highlandwear we still benefit from today.

Each kilt was carefully tailored, each complimenting garment entirely hand embellished.


Slide through to view snippets of the Am Ri Teachd collection.

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O U T L A N D I S H

Collaborating with Blues & Brown and Gordon Nicolson kiltmakers on an Outlander inspired editorial for Scottish Field Magazine. Another opportunity to create a kilt and embellish a staple from a "Jacobites" wardrobe to create a realm of highlandwear that hadn't been tapped into before.


Slide through to see the Outlandish editorial.

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B A N A W H I S K Y

Working with concept feminine whisky brand, Bana, to create an editorial and "TV Advert" promoting a whisky specifically branded to capture a widely female audience. For centuries, whisky has been largely branded at men - Bana turned this on its head. Accessories and styling by myself, GNK, Olivia Galbraitis, Concept by Holly Goodall.


Slide through to view the Bana Whisky campaign and discover more here.

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T H E B R I D A L K I L T

Most recently, I asked myself "what hasn't been done before? Where is highlandwear going?". Kilts are no longer just for men or the groom at a wedding...they are for all and can be worn in many different ways celebrating fashion and style in many ways. The answer - why doesn't the bride wear a kilt? A Bridal Kilt. A traditionally handmade kilt in duchess satin with delicate floral embroidery and beading details. All the elements of a classic gents kilt with the femininity of a wedding dress.


Slide through to view The Bridal kilt and learn more here.

Photography by Rose+Julien




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© Emma Wilkinson | The Kiltmakers Chronicle

The Kiltmakers Chronicle

Tartan | Kiltmaking | History