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Azeem Ibrahim: Why We Need an Islamic Tartan

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Meaningful symbols bring people in communities together. National flags, for example, play an important part in raising community awareness and pride. The flag of St. Andrew’s cross or the Saltire is as familiar in immigrant communities in Scotland as the crescent of Islam, with allegiance to both being a powerful component of citizenship.

As a Scottish Muslim, I am deeply involved in the dynamics of community and the exploration of values of national and ethnic pride. Current discussion of independence and the future referendum is bringing a new focus to what it means to be a Scot, and Muslim communities in Scotland are particularly sensitive to the complexities of culture, race and religion that are perceived as an integral part of Scottishness. Generations who have known no other home than Scotland now have a primary allegiance to this country rather than the nations where their parents or grandparents may have been born.

Therefore the idea of a Scottish Islamic Tartan seemed to me to be the perfect symbol of the future generation in particular, for the younger, educated Muslims caught between two cultures — East and West, traditional and modern. Instead of conflict, the tartan represents a tightly woven blend of tradition and heritage. By bringing together the strands of two cultures, a symbol is created of something more meaningful than assimilation or accommodation. The tartan represents the new fabric of society, where Muslim Scots with a sense of history and a commitment to the future of Scotland have become an integral part of the New Scotland.

With the design and introduction of a Muslim tartan, I hope to interest, challenge and provoke discussion among people who have Scotland’s interests at heart. The exclusion of Muslim communities has never been in the country’s interest and Scotland’s future, whether devolved or independent, depends on every Scot playing a part in creating a peaceful and successful homeland. What more fitting symbol of this aspiration than an Islamic Tartan?

via Azeem Ibrahim: Why We Need an Islamic Tartan.

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Q: Why Do We Wear Pants / trousers? A: Horses – Alexis Madrigal – The Atlantic

Q: Why Do We Wear Pants? A: Horses

JUL 11 2012, 2:22 PM ET 61

The surprisingly deep history of trouser technology.

Whence came pants? I’m wearing pants right now. There’s a better than 50 percent chance that you, too, are wearing pants. And neither of us have probably asked ourselves a simple question: Why?

It turns out the answer is inexplicably bound up with the Roman Empire, the unification of China, gender studies, and the rather uncomfortable positioning of man atop horse, at least according to University of Connecticut evolutionary biologist Peter Turchin.

“Historically there is a very strong correlation between horse-riding and pants,” Turchin wrote in a blog post this week. “In Japan, for example, the traditional dress is kimono, but the warrior class (samurai) wore baggy pants (sometimes characterized as a divided skirt), hakama. Before the introduction of horses by Europeans (actually, re-introduction – horses were native to North America, but were hunted to extinction when humans first arrived there), civilized Amerindians wore kilts.”

The reasons why pants are advantageous when mounted atop a horse should be obvious, nonetheless, many cultures struggled to adapt, even when their very existences were threatened by superior, trouser-clad horseback riders.

Turchin details how the Romans eventually adopted braccae (known to you now as breeches) and documents the troubles a 3rd-century BC Chinese statesman, King Wuling, had getting his warriors to switch to pants from the traditional robes. “It is not that I have any doubt concerning the dress of the Hu,” Wuling told an advisor. “I am afraid that everybody will laugh at me.” Eventually, a different state, the Qin, conquered and unified China. They just so happened to be closest to the mounted barbarians and thus were early to the whole cavalry-and-pants thing.

Turchin speculates that because mounted warriors were generally men of relatively high status, the culture of pants could spread easily throughout male society.

I’d add one more example from history: the rise of the rational dress movement in conjunction with the widespread availability of the bicycle. Here’s a University of Virginia gloss:

The advent and the ensuing popularity of the safety bicycle, with its appeal to both sexes mandated that women cast off their corsets and figure out some way around their long, billowy skirts. The answer to the skirt question was to be found in the form of bloomers, which were little more than very baggy trousers, cinched at the knee. Bloomers provoked wrath in conservatives and delight in women cyclists, and the garment was to become the centerpiece of the “rational dress” movement that sprung up at the end of the 19th century.

What all these examples suggest is that technological systems — cavalry, bicycling — sometimes require massive alterations in a society’s culture before they can truly become functional. And once it’s locked in, the cultural solution (pants) to an era’s big problem can be more durable than the activity (horse-mounted combat) that prompted it.

via Q: Why Do We Wear Pants? A: Horses – Alexis Madrigal – The Atlantic.

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Mexican kilt

We were originally commissioned to create a Mexican kilt by a client who runs a Mexican restaurant.  The complex Mexico crest was always going to be a challenge.  According to Wikipedia:

The current coat of arms of Mexico has been an important symbol of Mexican politics and culture for centuries. The coat of arms depicts a Mexican Golden Eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus devouring a snake. To the people of Tenochtitlan this would have strong religious connotations, but to the Europeans, it would come to symbolize the triumph of good over evil. The national coat of arms is also used in the Seal of the United Mexican States, a modified official version used by the federal, state and municipal governments.

In the end we decided to use fabric paints.  Many thanks to friend and fabric designer Anna for her fabulous brushwork.  It was a lot of work but I think you’ll agree that it was worth it.

We have since found out that using the image of the Mexican flag on garments is against the law in Mexico.  I guess I won’t be going there for my holidays!

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Union flag kilt featured in Present’s jubilee punk theme window

If you’ve walked along Shoreditch High Street recently you’ve probably been drawn into the cornucopia of fabulous delights that is Present.  The FT’s ‘How to spend it‘ raves about them and says they stock “Brilliantly edited modern menswear that pushes fashion boundaries without going over the top”.

I was wowed as I browsed through for the first time last winter.  It turns out that Eddie (the co-owner of Present and co-founder of the famous Duffer of St George) was equally wowed by the Union Flag kilt I was wearing.

The upshot of this chance meeting (don’t we always meet more people when we wear a kilt?) is that we have been given the honour of being featured in their jubilee punk themed window.  Thanks guys!

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Trend-spotting: Men In Skirts – Forbes

One of the more surprising trends to emerge from the Men’s Spring-Summer 2012 runway shows that just ended in Paris: skirts. Long, short, narrow, baggy, pleated, fringed — they came in all shapes and styles. Most seemed like a provocation or statement. Riccardo Tisci’s boxy skirts at Givenchy were printed with vaguely vaginal close-ups of bird-of-paradise flowers that made one think of Georgia O’Keeffe. Rei Kawakubo’s calf-length dresses at Comme des Garcons were a shocking Pepto-Bismol pink. Rick Owens’ hobble skirts were dour and monk-like — and looked like they would be very difficult to walk in.

Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto’s versions, however, were so appealing they could actually pose a threat to slacks’ dominance in menswear. The diverse cast of models — from beefy, bearded blokes to fresh-faced youth to small, wise-looking elders — looked supremely confident and comfortable in their baggy, samurai skirts and wide, pleated culottes that looked like skirts.

via Trend-spotting: Men In Skirts – Forbes.

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New all tapestry kilts

Check out our new 100% tapestry kilts.  We got a couple of rolls of this fabric at a very special price so we can sell these to you for just £195 each.  Visit our shop.

We like the leopard kilt teamed up with a plain black jacket to bring out the spots:

We call the next one our ‘Abstract Plants kilt‘ … like gardening on acid.  We think it’s got a bit of an art deco / dandy look to it so we’ve teamed it here with a velvet smoking jacket:

 

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Graham the cat helps design the Union Kilt

I’ve had a design for a kilt with the Union Flag on the front for a while now.  It looks pretty good but I’ve never been 100% satisfied with it.  It didn’t adjust as neatly as my Classic Skilt design and, despite trying a number of innovative solutions, there was always the propensity for the wide apron to ‘tent’ across the knees when sitting (to the delight or chagrin of the person sitting opposite).

Having a Union Flag that wraps across the pleats of a Classic design Skilt has been in the back of my mind for years but I’ve always written it off as too complicated.  This year I’ve finally decided to give it a go.

I’m a stickler for accuracy so the Union Flag needs to be drawn to just the right scale so that the height of the flag matches the length of the kilt.  The rectangular flag then gets translated onto the conical form of the kilt, as I do this I realise that it’s even more complex than I first thought as it requires extra adjustments to stop the diagonal lines from having a ‘saw tooth’ effect.  Each pleat needs at least 3 unique pattern pieces for Red, White, and Blue.  All in all it is an epic project.

Thankfully I’ve got an expert to help me.  I’d like to introduce Graham my pattern cutting assistant:

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