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Bebaroque Elevates Hosiery

Mhairi McNicol and Chloe Patience have made a success out of a niche market of elaborately crafted tights.

Not all women like tights. But Bebaroque’s Mhairi McNicol and Chloe Patience have turned this staple but often boring accessory into painstakingly embroidered or hand-printed works of art that won them the best Scottish Accessory Designer of the Year award at the 2008 Scottish Fashion Awards, but also many fans and customers from all over the world.

Dazed Digital: How did you come up with the idea of producing tights?
Chloe Patience: We were both doing it separately after we finished our Masters Degrees. I had started printing tights to go with my collections and Mhairi started embroidering tights to go with her collection. I was already selling them in Totty Rocks in Edinburgh and I was getting a lot of orders, so I realised there was a niche market there.
Mhairi McNicol: When we finished our masters I applied for the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) programme. I had an idea for a hosiery business and I went through the process, did the pitch and got the full grant, so that helped us making up our minds and deciding to get on with it.  

DD: Do you find it difficult embroidering something as delicate as tights?
MMN: As an embroiderer it’s quite natural for you to sort of experiment with embroidery on different types of fabrics. I started embroidering onto tights while doing a lot of heavy woollen coats and velvet dresses and a nice comparison to that was embroidering onto sheerer fabrics. I felt extending the pattern down the leg was quite an obvious thing to do.

DD: So far Bebaroque has been a rather successful venture, but what’s the most difficult aspect of your business?
CP: Manufacturing. When you come back from a trade show, the first thing you really should do is contacting all the people you met there, but we go straight onto the manufacturing and printing process as we do everything by ourselves, so it can be quite hard going.

DD: Will you be at London Fashion Week?
MMC: Yes, as part of the “Scotland with Style” design collective. Before that and until 7th September we will be at Paris’ international fashion show “Who’s Next”, our first overseas show. Then we will go to Japan for an event part of the “100% Design” exhibition. Scottish Textiles are taking over five interior designers and ten fashion designers and are organising a fashion show in a big shopping centre. That’s an opportunity to meet the buyers from the Japanese market and, for the occasion, we will be doing a collaboration project with a Scottish boot-maker called Norreys, embroidering onto high heel platform shoes. We will bring this collaboration over to New York for the “Dressed To Kilt” event, which is a good opportunity to show celebrities our creations.  

DD: Is there anybody you’d like to work with one day?
CP: We love quirky brands such as Miu Miu and Moschino.

DD: What’s your best selling pair of tights?
CP: The “Tattoo Me” and I guess that’s mainly because the 15 denier tights give the impression the wearer has real intricate vintage sailor tattoo on her legs. This sort of tattoos are very fashionable at the moment, but when I designed these tights three years ago nobody was into that. The “Tattoo Me” has become a classic, so we’ll keep on making it as long as people keep on ordering them. At times it goes into phases: at Christmas time, for example, we sell darker embroidered tights with sparkles.

DD: Do you get a lot of feedback from customers?
CP: We have a lot of regular customers and all of them are enthusiastic about our products. Some of them often write to tell us they get stopped everywhere when they wear our tights.
MMN: The guy from the Face Hunter website keeps on taking photographs of people in our tights from all over the world. A while back we had a girl in Sweden who got a photo taken wearing our “Tattoo Me” tights and suddenly we got a lot of orders from over there.

DD: Will you launch other products/lines in future?
CP: We are just trying to decide when is the right time to branch into other areas because, obviously, we didn’t just train in how to do tights, though this is something interesting that we love doing and that people like. We do have a lot more skills like dressmaking and we’d like to embroider onto cashmere, velvet and other fabrics. I’d like to branch out in body stockings and accessories. Ideally we’d like to have a complete line, but it might be a nice angle doing shoes and handbags. What’s certain is that we’ll always try to come up with new concepts.