Two women who have helped ease the challenges of the path, making it feel less lonely and arduous, are Nadia Alexander, the driving force behind Alexander Manufacturing, and Clare Campbell, the visionary behind Prickly Thistle.
The resonance of their rebellious spirits, their unapologetic commitment to deviate from the norm, has established a profound connection that aligns seamlessly with the ethos of transformative change, I believe, is needed for the future of the Scottish fashion landscape.
The magnetic pull these extraordinary women exert on me stems from their shared dedication to challenging the established norms of the fashion industry.
For Rebel Clare, being a “fabric of the planet rebel” is not just a catchphrase but a mission. Hailing from the Scottish Highlands, Clare’s brainchild, Prickly Thistle, goes beyond mere fabric weaving. In five short years, the company has revolutionised clothing creation, minimising fabric waste to zero.
Clare’s vision is a paradox pattern, where she embraces the simplicities of the past to help direct the future. Her design ethos alongside her ethical operational strategies led to Prickly Thistle becoming the first B Corp certified textiles mill and clothing maker in the UK, championing accountability in ethical practices.
Nadia Alexander, on the other hand, is not just breathing new life into the historic Hancock factory in Cumbernauld but through her family farming investing in ‘fleece to frock’, while making their model truly circular.
Sustainability and ethical practices are the core tenets of her business approach, aligning seamlessly with the contemporary demand for responsible manufacturing.
Nadia Alexander with husband Murray
Nadia’s triumph is evident in the revitalisation of the factory and the establishment of a dedicated team in Scotland to facilitate the growth of her business.
This stands as a testament to her unwavering commitment to sustainable and ethical business practices, along with her significant investment in the Scottish economy. This year, she aims to expand her retail presence by opening more stores in Scotland.
Nadia, Clare, and I are collectively driving an agenda for change. At Alexander Manufacturing, Prickly Thistle, and Beira, our shared focus revolves around prioritizing people and the planet.
Our approach is centred on supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce, ensuring a living wage, and delivering value to the end customer at all levels, including service, product quality, and investment in clothing that endures over time.
In terms of the planet, our advocacy centres on responsible manufacturing, minimizing waste, and crafting quality products that defy the norms of ‘throw way’ fashion.
While there have been many triumphs, the path has not been easy for either of these women. Clare faced the challenge of breaking free from tartan stereotypes. Tartan, while globally recognised, is burdened with preconceived interpretations.
Through her practices and designs she has focused on modern, innovative zero waste designs.
As a manufacturer, Nadia, has faced huge challenges in getting agencies to understand and see the potential in Scottish manufacturing. According to UKRI The fashion and textile industry is estimated to be worth £21 billion to the UK economy. Nadia believes: “we are missing a huge opportunity for creating true and meaningful Scottish fashion brands which invest in Made in Scotland”.
Providing additional support at both government and agency levels, akin to the assistance extended to the whisky and tourism industries, could enhance the Scottish economy and foster the creation of sustainable jobs and careers.
To those who walk alongside us on this journey or those considering embarking on this path: we appeal to you to join us and become advocates for change.
Clare’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to stay true to their values and not compromise on ethics.
Nadia proposes embracing a departure from the norm, encouraging a different approach, and fostering inclusivity within your teams.
As we look ahead, the year 2024 appears to pose challenges for retailers. Beira, Alexander Manufacturing, and Prickly Thistle are all committed to maintaining agility and preserving a strong moral compass in the constantly evolving landscape of the fashion industry.
In a sector often overshadowed by big players, we rebels are hoping to not just change the game; but redefine it, proving that in the Scottish fashion industry, being ‘not normal’ is not a challenge but a celebration. n