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EMLYN FIRTH AND ANGHARAD McLAREN

In Scotland, as across the globe, scarves can be an instant signifier of your sporting tribal allegiance. Scarves are held aloft in times of triumph, clenched in moments of hope, left in tribute after tragedy. Scarves become souvenirs of great Sporting occasions—carriers of memory, a supporter’s trophy.

Our idea was to create a parallel graphic identity – applied to apparel and accessories – which would provide an alternative to branded sportswear or badged merchandise, capture the spirit of the Games and have a life after the event. Our collaboration with Johnstons led us naturally to focus on scarves, a mainstay of their production.

The concept of Home [h] / Away [a] emerged during our initial design process, as we researched the venues of the Games. [h] and [a] are merely abbreviations on a fixture list, but we like to think of them signifying the pride you feel being in your home city, or of following who you support wherever they go. The [h] and [a] feature as part of the woven pattern – in the same position as you might find a luxury brand marque or a football crest.

As a graphic designer and a woven textile designer with a shared passion for sports, our collaboration centred on using digital techniques to create a contemporary design, whilst celebrating the rich cultural heritage of Scottish textile manufacturing. The geometric pattern created is an abstraction of the herringbone structure of traditional tweed – the original performance fabric worn to protect against the Scottish elements.

Through the design process we found overlaps in mathematical structures and grids, which are core tools within our disciplines, and this informed the use of the herringbone as a generative element in a multi-layered pattern with depth of scale and rhythm.

We worked in partnership with Johnstons of Elgin as our concept developed and with their skilled design team to translate our proposal into sample prototypes. As a fully ‘vertical mill’ every stage of production happens in house, from spinning the yarn to stitching labels on the finished products – with stringent quality control checks at every stage, ensuring the highest standard of finish expected from such a renowned luxury brand.

Emlyn Firth and Angharad McLaren
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Does your souvenir create associations to a particular time, place or memory?
Both of us love scarves as crafted objects and kept them as tangible mementos of a place or time in our lives. For Angharad, scarves reminded her of travel adventures and fashion; for Emlyn they are a timeless and authentic component of football culture.

The design for us is about sport and craft, people and place, patterns and memories:

1930’s Herringbone Tweed Cycling Wear; Jacquard Football Scarves from the ‘80s; Windsurfing on a cold loch; the changing Glasgow cityscape; Istanbul; Dazzle Ships; Somerset Park turnstiles; Beat matched projections at a techno night; Hamburg and St Pauli; climbing Ben Cruachan; running around Arthur’s Seat at nightfall.

For everybody else, the scarf is a blank canvas – you choose if you’re Home or Away, what that symbolises, who you’ll support, and what memories you take away with you.

How does Scotland or Glasgow manifest itself in your souvenir?
The design takes its graphic forms from the pattern of traditional Scottish tweeds – the original sports fabric to protect wearers from the Scottish elements, in which colours are symbolic of the local landscape and activities taking place there.

We took our cues from the urban and rural locations of sporting events in the Games. ‘Home’ / ‘Away’ can apply to ‘City’ / ‘Countryside’, but they also allow people to apply their own team alliance without being outwardly branded by it, allowing a shared sense of sportsmanship and team support throughout an international crowd.

How important is it that your idea is developed and manufactured in Scotland?
The ideas behind our design are inextricably linked to Scotland – its landscape, its football and textile heritage – and the highest quality of manufacturing which is on our doorstep.

While the Scottish textiles industry struggles against cheap foreign competition – with reports of mills closing as recently as last year – Johnston’s of Elgin are a successful, sustainable model for the future, combining well-maintained original machinery and traditional techniques with efficient modern technology and vertical production.

What is the cultural value of working closely with industry partner based in Scotland?
It’s great to celebrate Scotland's internationally renowned textile heritage to show what is possible here. It also provided the opportunity to challenge preconceived stereotypes of traditional Scottish textiles, re-imagining the familiar with a contemporary style aesthetic made possible by digital weaving technology.

There is so much more potential for design to innovate and transcend perceived boundaries of craft and technology, with much benefit to both designers and manufacturers in the process – learning and sharing skills, taking risks to explore new ideas and expanding preconceived notions of what Scottish textile manufacturing can be. It would be amazing if more projects like this happened independently.

In what way do you feel Scotland Can Make It! challenges or sits alongside the traditional idea of mass produced, low cost merchandise usually available to commemorate such large-scale events as Glasgow 2014?
There’s always a place for that, but if you have a combination of over zealous brand guardians and lowest price-point applications, will you really create stuff that people want to keep?

We were also conscious that just by the virtue of being two Scottish based designers that we would design something of the time and place, without relying on too many traditional Scottish signifiers.

By sitting alongside the official merchandise, we would hope our design offer an alternative for design and sustainability conscious consumers.