Harris Tweed is synonymous with Scottish style so we decided to ask designer Katherine Emtage why the material is so special and what her bags convey about the person carrying it.
What is your background – education/training?
My granny taught me to sew when I was a child. After my degree I took a short course in handbag making at Central Saint Martins college in London. Other than that, I am self taught. I have gone on to teach others how to make handbags. I think this helps my own practice. I also have a degree in Psychology with Sociology.
Have you always liked bags – what is it you enjoy about them?
I have always liked bags. I remember taking a toy in my Snoopy bag to school on a day we were allowed to take a toy in to show, and I was more proud of my Snoopy bag than my toy. I love the way they are perfectly self contained, beautiful and practical.
Why do you choose to work in Harris Tweed? What is special about it as a material?
Harris Tweed is fantastic to work with. Because they dye the yarn rather than the finished cloth, the colours are saturated and intense, and different colours are woven together to create amazing colour combinations. When I lay it out on my cutting table, it looks like an aerial view of the Scottish countryside. I also love that it’s durable, practical, traditional and yet totally modern. In a bigger sense it is an environmentally friendly, traceable cloth which is important.
How long have you been making bags and how have your designs evolved? Is there a particular design that is core to your collections and that you always do?
I have been making bags for nearly 15 years. I have always worked in natural fabrics where possible, but my designs have definitely evolved. I have become more experimental with textures, and as my machinery has developed I have been able to tackle more heavy duty fabrics and create more complicated designs. Some designs go from season to season, but I always look to develop and improve them where possible. For example, the man bag has been in the collection for many years, but has matured over the years.
What is the inspiration behind your bags and current collection? Is it only bags or do you have other work too?
My collection explores the textural possibilities of the tweed to create three dimensional effects and textural contrasts. I use heavy zipping, velvet and quilting. The collection includes bags, purses, corsages and home wares.
Is there a celebrity that you’d love to see carrying one of your bags and why that person?
The biggest compliment would be to see Vivienne Westwood carrying one of my bags. She is the queen of working with Harris Tweed in a design led way, so she would be the ultimate ambassador.
What do you think one of your bags says about the person carrying it?
I think it says they are someone who has the perfect balance of practicality and style! They are in touch with nature and know who they are.
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