Scotland is home to an amazing selection of independent brands across diverse business sectors. Some traditional in their methods and products, some cutting edge – many a mixture of both.
Thinking about the Scottish brands I love it occurred to me that what makes a brand really stand-out are the same qualities I admire in my friends; a great personality and a genuine ethos.
So here are a few of my faves – the ones that wear their hearts on their sleeves, the ones with the courage of their convictions and the ones who are just fun, fun, fun, fun.
Based in Glasgow, Trakke make bags and accessories which are built to last – so much so that they offer free repairs – for life! Made in Scotland (in fact, made in-house in Glasgow), with all materials sourced from the UK, these bags are not only functional and sustainable but very cool indeed.
I first came across them at Glasgow’s (in)famous Barras market when they were just getting started – and I still have the Trakke pouch I bought that day. Its been fantastic to see them go from strength to strength and build such a brilliant Scottish brand.
Timorous Beasties are the undisputed Kings of Scottish interior design, with countless international design credits to their name and collaborations with names as diverse as Nike, the National Portrait Gallery, John Lewis and penguin books (to name a very few).
Their freakily beautiful wallpapers, fabrics and soft furnishings adorn the homes of the great and good all over the world.
I had the pleasure of doing an internship with the Timorous Beasties guys whilst studying at Glasgow School of Art. While I was there I drew a small part of the shrubbery on their now famous ‘Glasgow Toile’ design (pictured)- a darkly tongue-in-cheek Glaswegian ode to classic Toile De Jouy patterns. As claims-to-fame go its not much – but very exciting indeed for an aspiring designer.
Isle of Skye Candle Company
The Isle of Skye Candle Company make gorgeous soy wax candles, by hand, on Skye. The scents and packaging are lovely and the ethos of the brand is all about sustainability and creating products which are natural and don’t cause harm to the environment or your health.
They now have their own shops in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and St Andrews – so you can go in and sniff ’till you can’t smell no more!
The Highland Gorse candle (pictured) is a favourite of mine; fresh and sweet over a heady pine and amber base. Lovely!
If you are a candle person, you might like to take a look at our own wee range of luxury soy wax candles…
Mairi Helena is an emerging interiors brand (and successful blog) with a style which is somehow at once understated and maximalist. Mairi’s designs are inspired by her passion for photography; she brings images, textures and patterns together to create rich, intricate fabrics and wallpapers celebrating Scottish wildlife and nature.
I met Mairi when she was assigned to me as a mentee a few years ago as she was just getting started. Its wonderful to watch her brand blossom into something so beautifully unique.
I couldn’t write a blog about the Scottish brands I love without featuring Tunnock’s. Established in 1890, Thomas Tunnock Limited is still a family business and, hands down, Scotland’s favourite choccie biscuit manufacturer; producers of the iconic and delicious Tunnock’s Teacake and Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer.
I recently visited Tunnock’s Willy Wonka style factory in Uddingston for a personal tour, guided by Boyd Tunnock’s daughter Karen (ah, the perks of the job). Its a heady mixture of heritage and innovation – fabulously high tech Japanese robots in a classic 1950’s factory building with beautifully Scottish tartan carpets! There can’t be many places left like that in Scotland.
My range of Tunnock’s products celebrates this fabulous Scottish brand.
IRN-BRU (Scotland’s Other National Drink) is arguably one of the best-known Scottish brands worldwide, drunk from Methil to Moscow. Launched in 1901 as Iron-Brew, it’s still made by A.G. Barr to a secret recipe of 32 ingredients.
I grew up with IRN-BRU’s legendary TV catchphrases. From ‘Made in Scotland from Girders’, to ‘IRN-BRU gets you Thru’ the IRN-BRU ad campaigns effortlessly capture the irreverent Scottish sense of humour.
After months of planning and designing we finally launched our brand new, officially approved a range of IRN-BRU Pop! products this week, under license with A.G. Barr. It’s a dream to be working with another legendary Scottish brand.
RHA Audio are an independent audio company based in Glasgow and on a mission to ‘to transform the way people interact with sound, technology and each other’.
They use new approaches and innovative materials to make some very cool headphones and other audio accessories.
Begg and Co.
Established in the Scottish town of Paisley in 1866, when Alex Begg started working with local weavers to make woollen shawls, Begg & Co have been at the forefront of weaving technology in Scotland for over 150 years.
Today, their collections of cashmere and lambswool accessories and interiors products are produced in their Ayrshire factory by skilled craftspeople using cutting-edge computerised equipment alongside traditional mill machinery.
Inspired by the natural beauty of Scotland, this is modern, understated luxury at its very best.
Established in 1887, McRostie Scotland began as a saddlers’ ironmongers, growing to become a wholesale saddlery. Today they make all sorts of beautiful leather products and accessories including belts, bags, document holders, kilt belts, and sporrans in a minimal, ageless style that whispers ‘quality and craftsmanship’.
A small family business, every single McRostie product is made end-to-end in their Scottish workshop by skilled makers using traditional techniques. I’ve known owners Colin and Kareen since I was a little girl, and I know how passionate they are about what they do. A fantastic wee Scottish brand.
Ellis O’Connor (whilst not strictly a brand) is a contemporary Scottish landscape painter who lives and works on the Outer Hebridean Island of North Uist.
She paints with a breathtaking dynamic energy to capture the wild and ever-changing rhythms of the Hebridean land and seascapes.
2019 marks the 10th year of my own wee Scottish brand, Gillian Kyle. So the 10th company I’m going to choose is – us!
I’m not one for self-congratulation (in fact – I’m probably overly critical and always think I could do better) but in the week that we launch our A.G. Barr licensed range this feels like a great time to step back and reflect on how far we’ve come.
Its been quite the journey, with pitstops to have children and plenty of blood, sweat and tears along the way, but I feel so proud of what we are achieving, especially in the last 18 months.
Our aim is to become the go-to brand for contemporary Scottish gifts. And with 7 new ranges launched in the last year and partnerships in place with 2 of Scotland’s biggest brands, we are well on our way. Watch this space!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the Scottish brands I love (there are many, many more – but we must keep them for next time).
Its so inspiring to be part of this vibrant Scottish community of artists, designers, crafters, makers, producers and entrepreneurs doing what they do best. Lets all share the love and keep on supporting Scottish independent brands.
Till next time…