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Schools competition showcases next generation of fashion industry hopefuls

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The Ayrshire country house is the headquarters of The King’s Foundation, the charity established by His Majesty King Charles III in 1990.

Firrhill’s trio of Angus Wallace, Lisa Elvin and Rosie Eastwood – led by teacher Lisa Campbell – most impressed a panel of judges that comprised Patrick Grant of television’s The Great British Sewing Bee, Vixy Rae of Edinburgh-based Stewart Christie, Scotland’s oldest tailor, and John Sugden of Campbell’s of Beauly.

Grant said of the Firrhill team’s creation: “The construction of your garments is really beautiful and very elegant and refined. The quality of the sewing is great and all three of you were fully involved and seemed to be enjoying it.”

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The prize for the south-west Edinburgh school group is a behind-the-scenes tour of Stewart Christie on the Capital’s Queen Street, which is Scotland’s oldest tailor, where pupils will have the opportunity to meet master tailors and kiltmakers.

The King’s Foundation’s Future Textiles programme of fashion and textiles education workshops has, for a decade, given pupils the skills, confidence and knowledge to progress their interest and aspirations in further training and careers in the industry.

At the Tartan Takeover competition, pupils from Firrhill High (Edinburgh), Bo’ness Academy (Falkirk) and Biggar High (South Lanarkshire) in the east of the country joined west of Scotland representatives from St Stephen’s Academy (Inverclyde), Bellshill Academy (North Lanarkshire) and Clydebank High (West Dunbartonshire) as well as students from Ayrshire schools Queen Margaret Academy, Loudoun Academy, Girvan Academy, Kilwinning Academy, Marr College and Carrick Academy.

More than 150 pupils from those schools attended specialist workshops at Dumfries House in recent weeks, refining their skills under the tutelage of The King’s Foundation’s tutors. A select group from each school last week competed for a series of prizes recognising their creativity and skill.

Overall runner-up in the competition was Queen Margaret Academy from Ayr, who achieved a high standard of technical sewing using modern-looking textiles.

The Herald: Firrhill pupils at The King's Foundation's Tartan Takeover schools' challenge at Dumfries HouseFirrhill pupils at The King’s Foundation’s Tartan Takeover schools’ challenge at Dumfries House (Image: Damian Shields)

Carrick Academy were specially commended for their innovative use of materials that included lace died naturally using beetroot, while fellow Ayrshire school Loudoun Academy were also commended, this time for what judges described as “funky and colourful” design style features.

Twelve pupils from Firrhill attended monthly workshops with expert tutors from The King’s Foundation in the run-up to the inter-schools competition.

To design their tartan, Firrhill pupils were assigned the theme of “animals from the estate” and handed two inspiration pictures of rare-breed calves and piglets on the Education Farm on the estate. The whole class each designed their own interpretations and all voted for their favourite, which was designed by Esther Hudson. The three pupils to enter the competition, making a waistcoat and kilt-inspired skirt from scratch, were new fourth-year pupils Angus Wallace, Rosie Eastwood and Lisa Elvin.

Kelly Espindola, Future Textiles lead tutor for The King’s Foundation at Dumfries House, said: “It was so refreshing to see young people involved and enthusiastic about sewing, and to see the intergenerational mix between our Sewing Bee members and the pupils.

“A massive well done to Firrhill, attending the workshops in recent months (and having to leave Edinburgh at 7.30am each day to do so), working hard on the concept of their tartan, and  really embracing the challenge. They rose to the occasion and stood out on the day. It was a winning combination of great craftsmanship and sewing skills paired with a fantastic design.

“This has been a great opportunity for the young people, but to know The King is looking at their work is another level. The pupils’ work will live on in the Dumfries House tartan, and The King will I’m sure be very impressed when he sees the fruits of their labour in the last few months.

“I hope the pupils take home from this course some valuable lessons about sustainability and what goes into making clothes, allowing them to make good choices in future and perhaps even making their own clothes. They all had a burning passion for being creative, and we’d love to see them carry that on and become the sustainable designers and makers of the future.”

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