Who would have thought that tartan would once again feature as part of a global and political debate, but this time as a force fighting for global change. Changes to trends that are damaging our planet and changes to mindsets, all of which lead you to wearing your values with integrity. It is a very thought provoking statement if you ask yourself, am I wearing my values?.

Can you answer that question?
We are all living in the moment of a massive sustainable conversation, where no culture, community or country is not included in this. This is because we all have that one thing in common, one home, planet earth. Unlike most things in life a plan B can always be your fall back, but for this, there simply is no Planet B and it’s a hefty price to pay for another cheap t-shirt or an expensive coat where the brand does not openly share where the garment is made perhaps? I am no expert in the sustainable textiles world but as the founder of Prickly Thistle I have become an expert in-training, making sure I know that what we do and plan to do as a tartan textiles design, weaving and product manufacture business all the way up in the Scottish Highlands is as sustainable as I can make it, we have a responsibility. The reason I say I am in training is that the moment you think you know everything about any subject you don’t, as its the trainee who always remembers to ask the questions of who, why, what, where and how. Tartan has a role to play in the sustainable fabric of the planet debate, and this time round we at Prickly Thistle look back to the methods of our ancestors and learn from what they did right in the argument for respecting the planet. It is with great pride I am pushing this forward, where natural native raw materials combined with simple but highly creative processes result in garments and fabrics that will last lifetimes. When it comes to Scottish textiles in particular, this was once a vibrant industry but desires to chase the cheap needle, leading to perhaps less than favourable working conditions, or maybe lack of investment in people, plant and creativity and dare I say a compromise on the value of tartan design itself – the industry in Scotland was no longer sustainable at that scale in every sense.

Our way of thinking, our solution, is to change the future you must disrupt the past. How do we do that? When you realise we are all creating the past in every passing second, find your passion now, find your purpose now, disrupt what you can to support these now, follow your instinct now, and then you realise you can change the future and disrupt the past.

What we do now will have you reading this article for the next two weeks, but one of the most important sustainable decisions we made was rescuing some of the last remaining 100 year old shuttle looms in the country made from cast iron. They are digital free, they are works of art, they need a weaver to operate them and with the respect they deserve they will last forever. They are not as fast as the modern high tech versions used by most fabric producers, but that is the only major difference – and given the urgent need to restore a sustainable interaction with the planet, one of the simplest ways to do this is consume less. Therefore what was considered a major negative of being slower is actually the most powerful positive, we make less and you love more.

Consumption has lead to excess, excess has lead to waste and waste is destroying our planet.The textiles industry globally creates to billions of tonnes of waste each year, where the UK is one of the worst. Cheap garments are loved less and often discarded to landfill having never been worn.

Can tartan lead the charge in the fight for sustainable fabric and fashion? We may have only just got started, but I think we are on the right track – are you?

What we need you to do is keep asking the who, why, what, where and how,
You control the demand,
Your demand drives the industries,
Industries often control governments,
It is you who can help mend the sustainable fabric of the planet, wear your values.


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