The “coolest little city,” the UNESCO City of Design and the home of jute production. We have design and fashion running through the veins of Dundee. With such a rich textile history, the city was already set to be a fashion centre in Scotland. Now, design institutes and successful contemporary fashion designers born and or based in the city, have continued the momentum that started over a century ago.
Jute may have been the beginning of the fashion journey in the city, even earning Dundee the name ‘Juteopolis’ in the 1900s. It started at the beginning of the industrial revolution. The burgeoning British Empire brought the trade of flax, which began the development of jute. It was a coarse material to begin with, only used for packaging and burlap sacks. Many years of refining the process in the mills of the city however, transformed the material into something coveted in couture brands the world over. Major fashion houses such as Balmain and Donna Karen have been known to use the ‘golden fibre’ on the catwalk. After cotton, it’s the cheapest fibre to use but more importantly is sustainable and eco-friendly, which is why you might find it cropping back up in a modern world, centred on environmentalism.
Not only is the production of fabric an accolade the city can be proud of, UNESCO recognised the city’s design expertise in 2014. It was recognised then, and still is today that Dundee has a contemporary creative scene with an expertise in fashion. The 2012 winner of 'Scottish Young Designer of the Year’ Hayley Scanlan was born in the city and has dressed pop culture queens such as Little Mix, Pixie Lott, Jessie J and more. She went on to win the award once again in 2014, making her the only designer to win the title twice.
Many other designers have emerged on catwalks from Dundee including Dreamland clothing whose line was requested exclusively by online fashion giants ASOS and Forever 21. Wilde Mode is a brand specialising in underwear for comfort that promotes body positivity and confidence. These amongst many others contribute to the flourishing fashion culture alive and thriving here.
In 2018, Dundee hosted its own fashion week, celebrating up-and-coming designers. It championed the city’s artists, fashion designers, bloggers and jewelry designers. The V&A also honours the cities fashion heritage by hosting workshops and exhibitions. Last year the work of designer Nicholas Daley was exhibited in the museum, showing his creative workspace and how his Scottish-Jamaican heritage influenced his work. As of April this year, Mary Quant, whose iconic, sixties Mod style contributed to changing the face of fashion worldwide, will be exhibited.
Dundee has always and will continue to be the coolest little city, most likely because of its long standing connection with fashion. The future looks bright for the already successful designers affiliated with the city.