Scottish cultural influences on premier design houses Chanel and Dior

I’m more than excited to see how premier design houses incorporate cultural inspirations into their collections, like John Galliano did with Dior when he was still Creative Director. But sometimes, you wish they’d do a bit more research and give more thought to how this is represented before they launch it at the public. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can be done in a way that’s exciting and representative of the culture, but there are times when it really doesn’t sit right with you.

When the film version of the book by Arthur Golden, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ was released in 2005, I was more than excited and felt the film, although lacking a couple of important scenes from the book, was well-represented. What I hadn’t thought about was the film from a Japanese person’s perspective. After watching the film that day, one of my Japanese friends said she was disappointed because of the 3 main characters in the film, only one was a Japanese actor (Ken Watanabe) – the other two lead female roles were played by well-known Chinese actresses (Zhang Xiyi and Gong Li). Now I understand what she meant, but from a Scottish cultural perspective.

I arrived in Scotland some years ago now to complete my postgraduate degree and decided to stay after graduation. I had thought about returning to the country I was born in, but the one thought that stayed in my head about leaving Edinburgh was: ‘If I left, I’ll never again be able to sit in Princes Street Gardens, enjoying the sun and listening to pipers playing their bagpipes on Princes Street’….odd, I know. I don’t know why I thought that, but needless to say, I’m glad I made that decision. I’ve also come to appreciate the quirks of learning the Scots language, hope to one day take up Gaìdhlig and appreciating the beauty and history of this country.

Imagine my surprise when, being a Dior fan as I am, to here that they design house was collaborating with Harrod’s to present a pop up shop, similar to the one Dior did with Printemps, a department store in Paris. While it was exciting to see photos of members from Dior section of The Purse Forums displaying the signature Dior dove grey post boxes with gowns designed by Monsieur Christian Dior himself, it was also a bit of a disappointment to find most of their accessories (their signature classic Lady Dior bag, the lining of the new Diorissimo range among other things) sport tartan fabric as the ‘British trademark’ that Monsieur Dior loved so much.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Dior for Harrod’s window display. Source: post by Mentalism on The Purse Forums

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Lady Dior with tartan handles for Harrod’s, as shown in Harrod’s Magazine. Source: post by gregsk on The Purse Forums

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Diorissimo in green with tartan interior lining for Harrod’s, as shown in Harrod’s Magazine. Source: post by gregsk on The Purse Forums

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
More limited edition Dior for Harrod’s products. Source: Pop Sugar Beauty

Tartan has never really been considered a trademark of British culture – it was first and foremost Scottish and is still used predominantly as a trademark of Scottish souvenirs and holds significance for the Scottish people. The only time I have ever seen the tartan used outside of Scotland is on commercially bought high street plaid skirts that seem to be mostly popular with goth fashion or those who like the schoolgirl style, although if done right the tartan skirt can be worn well as part of your every day outfit. The significance is that apart from the tartan patterns you get from souvenir shops, custom made kilts for men and women use the colours of the individual’s clan (the family surname they belong to). Here are a few examples of tartans that are more often than not used for commercial purposes:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Brodie Red Modern tartan. Source: ScotlandShop

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Black Watch tartan, previously used by the militia of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Source: Frimmbits

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Dress tartan for the Mackenzie clan. Source: Wikipedia

Each clan has 2 sets of tartan: the dress tartan and the hunting tartan which are used for the purposes as it is so named for. I doubt that much thought had gone into the tartans used for the Dior for Harrod’s exclusive items. While it’s nice to see that Scottish culture and the country itself is being promoted since so many people outwith the UK don’t seem to understand that it’s a separate country above England (or that there is a country above England), it would have been nice to see it being used properly.

Which brings me to my next point. Apparently Chanel hosted a private soiree for a select few, according to Megs at The Purse Blog, at ‘a castle in Edinburgh’ (erm, Edinburgh Castle, maybe? It’s the only castle in town) to promote their newest collection for 2013, Métiers d’Art Collection Paris-Edimbourg. Official photos were later released by Chanel once they were ready for purchase in stores and could be seen also on The Purse Blog.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Grey chainmail Chanel Boy bag. Source: The Purse Blog

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Beige alligator Chanel Boy bag. Source: The Purse Blog

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Chanel Boy bags with leather and tartan tweed. Source: The Purse Blog

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Tartan tweed flower boots. Source: The Purse Blog

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Silver inaudière clutch. Source: The Purse Blog

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Pearl and tartan silver belt. Source: The Purse Blog

Sure some of their minaudière clutch and the bejewelled belt show Scottish influences and if I could afford it, I do like the colourful small Boy bags, but my ‘what the heck’ moment lie with the kilt shoes (or Ghillie brogues) and the sporrans.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Rabbit hair sporran shoulder bag. Source: The Purse Blog

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Leather and tassel sporran. Source: The Purse Blog

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Rabbit hair and leather tasseled sporran. Source: The Purse Blog

I’m surprised that while the sporrans are mainly quite accurately styled to a true sporran, but these bags cost anywhere from £12 up to maybe £150 depending on the hair used, Chanel ones would most likely cost somewhere of at the region and upwards of of US$4800 (approx. £3050), considering the leather sporran flasks they introduced earlier in the year cost US$4775 (approx. £3040) for the larger size and US$3625 (approx. £2308) for the small one. The sporran is also a bag used by men to hang on the belt loops of their kilt, so I’m surprised to see Chanel displaying it as a shoulder bag.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Hair brogues. Source: The Purse Blog

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Tartan Ghillie brogue boots. Source: The Purse Blog

My next pet peeve is the hair boots. We no longer live in the ages of the cave man and I’d like to see where Karl Lagerfeld got the inspiration for those brogue shoes? As for the Ghillie brogues, the traditional ones don’t go up the leg as high, afterall they’re dress shoes to be worn with the kilt. Here’s a picture of a traditional kilt/Ghillie brogue for comparison:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Dress Ghillie brogues. Source: ScotlandShop

What are your thoughts on the Scottish inspired items for Chanel’s Metiers d’Art collection and Dior for Harrod’s tartan lined accessories? Would you purchase any of them if you could?

Don't forget to leave a comment before you leave!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s