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MacQueen Tartan and The Widows of Culloden

From the war torn Highlands to high fashion

Motto "Constant and Faithful"


Clan MacQueen The name is of Norse origin, "Sweyn" a name common among sea-reivers of early times. The name developed, to appear as: MacQueen, MacSuain, MacCunn, Sween and even Swan. The MacSweens called Castle Sween in Kintyre home, as well as scatterings of the Clan across Lewis and Skye, from the 13th century. The name remained across these districts for three to four hundred years. They held allegiance with the MacDonalds of Clanranald and Sleat. The MacQueens also married into the MacIntoshs' to form a lasting allegiance there too. Notable MacQueens have cropped up throughout history. The 18th century judge, Robert MacQueen was an infamous judge in Lanarkshire, famed for his savage use of the death penalty. 20th/21st century fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen took great inspiration from the stories and history of the clan, and used this to fuel a number of collections he created using MacQueen Modern tartan. The tartan itself was first published in 1842 in the Vestiarium Scoticum written by the Sobeiski-Stuarts.

One of most memorable moments in the history of MacQueen tartan was in 2006 when Alexander McQueen, world renowned fashion designer, artist, creator showed Widows of Culloden at London Fashion Week. MacQueen tartan was heavily and iconically featured. McQueen's mother had enjoyed researching their Scottish Clan history, and consequently, Alexander McQueen found a great deal of inspiration from it. Scottish history is riddled with drama, romance, bloodshed. The countries history is as dramatic as its landscape and as colourful as its tartans. McQueen told the story of the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden through his beautifully tailored garments, he played with the tartan giving it new dimensions, showcasing it alongside both softer and harder textiles and silhouettes, some of which resembled military uniforms, the great kilt and traditional trews. The whole show closed with a ghostly hologram of Kate Moss. On a personal note, for me, this is THE collection. Although it's almost impossible to choose a favourite from his extensive and outstanding body of of work...for me, this is the one that sticks in my mind and always will - I felt the story it was telling through a tartan, textiles and tailoring. Following McQueen's death in February 2010, a plaque was erected in his memory on the Isle of Skye. His contribution to pushing the highlandwear industry forward and bringing it to an international audience was undeniable. He took traditional dress, traditional cloth and traditional silhouettes and created something that hadn't been seen before.

Watch the full Widows of Culloden A/W 2006 show here:



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© Emma Wilkinson | The Kiltmakers Chronicle

The Kiltmakers Chronicle

Tartan | Kiltmaking | History