One of the oldest brands in the UK, Pringle of Scotland is having a bit of a creative renaissance at the moment. And it’s all done to its creative director, the graceful and intelligent Clare Waight Keller. Besides forging new links with the contemporary art world through the Serpentine Gallery and choosing as the house muse, the luminous and original Tilda Swinton; Waight Keller has managed the feat of making knitwear look fresh and modern again, while retaining its links to traditional Scottish craftsmanship. Backstage, Waight Keller spoke of her desire to capture the essence of how women dress today – “Sometimes you want to dress very chic and some days you just want to have fun.” So austere monochrome outfits were eventually broken up by vests of short fringes or dresses with ribbon woven into sweaters to create texture. There were hints of Nicolas Ghesquiere’s cool futurism in the feminine variation on the Scottish kilt and techno mesh trim as well as Phoebe Philo’s refined and reduced minimalism. But what was the most interesting was how this heritage brand managed to show one of the freshest and clean collections of the LFW season.
Dazed Digital: For a brand that’s 195 years old, how do you make it modern?
Clare Waight Keller: For me it’s all in the fabrications – it’s all about lightness and treating things in a very interesting, unexpected way. So the cables on the organza reverses the concept of what is expected on knitwear and trying to make something that felt clean and austere but still the heritage comes through.
DD: How do you walk the tightrope between pushing forward and being respectful to the heritage of the brand?
Clare Waight Keller: It is one of those tricky balances because as a designer you always want to do something new but there’s an element that I really feel strongly about which has to come from the links with the past and it’s important to keep that going, those little touches that go back to James Pringle.
DD: You’ve worked with Tilda Swinton for some time now. Does she provide a new way of viewing the Scottish heritage?
Clare Waight Keller: It’s very much the ways she talks about things and puts things together. It’s very interesting talking to her about her heritage of Scotland and how she sees it.
DD: And if you were to sum up an emotion running through the collection what would that be?
Clare Waight Keller: Purity.