Feature

Dec 2007

Luxury Scotland

And it's not just the men of course, from Deborah Kerr through to Annie Lennox, Scottish women have been every bit as glamorous and honey-voiced. Indeed, perhaps it's to do with the accent. Advertisers know that the Scottish accent imparts a sense of trust and reliability and have long favoured Scots for voiceovers and commercials work. A large part of the UK's call centre, service centre, and financial services industries are based in Scotland for similar reasons.

With so many Scottish stars now straddling the worlds of film, music, fashion, literature and the arts it's small wonder that their home country is becoming more and more adept at catering to increasingly sophisticated tastes. The past decade has seen an incredible boom in luxury goods and services right across Scotland . . .

Nowhere is this more evident than in the big cities, particularly Glasgow and Edinburgh, which have become major centres of luxury shopping: Edinburgh's Princes Street and Glasgow's 'Golden Z' shopping area formed by the intersection of Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyll Street are now among the most prized retail centres in the UK. Everything from cashmere and diamonds to designer handbags and clothing is sold in greater quantities than anywhere in the UK outside of London.

And if you plan to shop 'til you drop, you will need somewhere to recover your energy. Forbes Magazine the bible for America's super-rich voted Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel into its top ten. The hotel recently underwent a major renovation, with the rooms being repainted in colours designed to reflect the moors, mists and heathers of Scotland. One thing hasn't changed, however; the inspiring views of Edinburgh Castle remain very much untouched.

And Scotland's luxury hotel status looks set to continue into the future with plans to build the Argyll International the country's first ever 6 star hotel!

A recent project combined both Scottish celebrity and luxury to great effect 'Silver of the Stars' has been created by Michael Laing OBE, the Deacon of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh. (The IGCE dates back to the fifteenth century and is believed to be one of the oldest continuously existing businesses in Scotland.) The idea came to Laing when he was walking his dogs in the Pentland Hills above Edinburgh. 'I asked myself how silversmithing could be made more relevant and interesting in the modern world.' The answer, Laing decided, was 'Silver of the Stars', a project which pairs ten of Scotland's finest silversmiths with ten Scottish celebrities from the worlds of music, theatre, film, fashion and literature in order to design a piece of silver for what Laing describes as 'that most beautiful moment a drink with a close friend'.

The celebrities included Lulu, Robbie Coltrane, Sean Connery, Billy Connolly, Ewan McGregor, Alexander McQueen and Ian Rankin; and the wide range of drinking vessels and partners they chose reflected the breadth of their interests: from tea with Marvin Gaye, to malt whisky with Rembrandt.

The exhibition featuring the fascinating range of drinking vessels created for the celebrities by the silversmiths has been on a worldwide tour of museums and galleries since 2007 and finally arrived at the National Museum in Edinburgh in January 2008. All proceeds from the exhibition have gone to benefit a selection of charities named by the individual celebrities.

Another area where a share of the luxury goods market is increasingly coming Scotland's way is food and drink. A generation ago Scotland was the butt of many a foodie joke about Irn-Bru and deep-fried Mars Bars. How times change. Scotland is now one of the world's most highly regarded producers of luxury foodstuffs; the world's top chefs from Gordon Ramsay to Heston Blumenthal insist on Aberdeen Angus beef in their kitchens, while the harvest of Scotland's seas and lochs our mussels, oysters, langoustines and lobsters is among the most prized seafood in the world. And we're making exciting advances into newer fields like heather-smoked cheeses and fine ales. And, thanks to the Internet, today everyone is only a mouse-click away from having fresh Scottish produce delivered to their doorstep.

Scotland also has a long and proud tradition of design innovation in the textiles sector. Today its particular strengths lie in niche markets for luxury fabrics and cashmere knitwear; designer brands and specialist technical textiles and we are renowned for the quality of our woven apparel and furnishing fabrics. Traditional tartans and tweeds, as well as contemporary designs, are in constant demand by international designers and retail houses.

The Scottish knitwear industry has focused on distinctive products, with a strong emphasis on quality, design and branding. Shetland and lambswool continue to thrive and Scotland is one of only two areas in the world where high quality knitted cashmere is produced, the other being Italy. Luxury clothing is a major and growing sector of Scottish textiles and traditional Scottish fashions such as kilts, tartan skirts, trousers and jackets, are being manufactured alongside new, technologically innovative products such as outdoor clothing and exciting designer collections.

Indeed, a piece of traditional Scottish clothing has now crossed over into the realm of the latest must-have fashionista item: the Mackintosh Raincoat! The good old Mack was invented back in 1823 when Glasgow chemist Charles Macintosh (no 'k'!) developed the process of spreading rubber onto cotton, to create the world's first waterproof coat. Today, partly thanks to its success in trend-conscious markets like Japan, the Mack is making a comeback and looks set to be one of the big fashion success stories of the coming year. Mackintosh Rainwear, based in Cumbernauld, is now set for a major relaunch. Mary McGowne, founder of the Scottish Style Awards, is the proud owner of a navy blue Mack and she says, 'It's a distinctive wardrobe staple for men and women alike. It is one of several Scottish success stories it's one of those pieces that just never goes out of style.'

A bit like the country that produced it then...

www.silverofthestars.com

www.guardian.co.uk

www.luxuryscotland.co.uk

www.luxuryedinburgh.com

www.incorporationofgoldsmiths.co.uk

www.friendsofscotland.gov.uk