The Skilt story

Hi, my name is Richard.  I am the designer, sample maker, model, webmaster, and sales manager here at Skilt.  Together with the production team in our Bethnal Green workshop I aim to bring you excellent quality kilts that are eye catching and practical to wear.

How it started

I bought my first kilt in about 2002 – a cheap black one that I just wore to go clubbing.  It wasn’t until 2007 while I was on holiday in the States when I saw my first contemporary kilt with press studs and pockets – a Utillikilt.  Upon returning to London I went online and ordered me one.  I loved it.  I wore it around town and loved the reactions.  I was hooked.

One day I was looking down at trousers of my pinstripe suit and I got the idea to create a pinstripe button-up kilt.  I bought some fabric, my friend showed me how to thread her sewing machine and, many hours later, I had made my first kilt.  It was a little short and a bit rough around the edges but I was happy with it.  In fact people’s reaction was so positive that I decided to take things further.

Commando Kilts

One night I had an idea for a kilt brand.  Commando Kilts.  I liked the playful allusion to what lies beneath and the association with the military.  I got straight on the internet and checked to see if the URL was available and, to my surprise and delight, it was.  I was excited.

Over the next few weeks I worked on a logo design, got permission from Wilkinson Sword to feature the Fairbairn-Sykes commando dagger, and sent my application to the patent office to see if I could register it.

There were a couple of objections and I was a bit worried that the Royal Navy’s legal department could get heavy with me.  As I was waiting to find out the result I set about designing a better kilt.

The design challenge

I loved my Utillikilt but a couple of things bugged me about it: the pockets were not detachable, and the waist wasn’t adjustable.  An engineer by training, I set about coming up with an elegant design that would address these issues.  Over the next few months I made myself kilt after kilt.  Each one trying out a different idea.

The first thing to get right was the pockets.  After many iterations I found that a simple strip of velcro coupled with belt loops for strength did the job.  Styling wise I took inspiration from British Army combat clothing.  My first production design was the Combat Kilt.  I lined up manufacturing in Vietnam … but didn’t yet have the trademark on ‘Commando Kilts’.  Should I wait?  Or could I come up with another name as a stop gap?

Skilt?

Tom Vincent, an old friend of mine, came up with the name Skilt in a brainstorming session.  I didn’t like it at first but it kind of grew on me.  I liked its simplicity, that it was less overtly army macho, and the possibility it could kind of be the ‘hoover’ or ‘xerox’ of the modern kilt.

The logo design moved quite quickly from a swooshy S to a squished S to represent the folds of the pleats.

The patterns were made, the label was designed, and a couple of months later my first batch of ‘Combat Skilts’ arrived from Vietnam.

The London kilt

The kilts from Vietnam were pretty good and people liked them.  But they weren’t exactly what I had hoped for and I was disappointed.  Communication was always going to be an issue and you can hardly send a kilt back to be altered if you spot a problem.  I needed somewhere more local.

Volunteering at a Whitechapel sewing charity for people recovering from mental illness I was lucky to receive sewing tuition from the wonderful Arif and Anhar.  With their help I came up with the Classic Skilt design that not only nailed the waist adjustment issue but also pioneered a modular method of kilt construction that allowed for simpler patterns, alternating pleats, inserted pleats, and reflected piping.

After trying out several local workshops Arif put me in touch with my current production team.  They are a busy bunch and it can sometimes be a challenge to fit the kilts into the production schedule but they always pull the stops out when someone needs a kilt for a special occasion.

The future

Kilts are gaining in popularity as men around the world embrace their creativity and individuality.  I hope that Skilt will continue to delight men and women around the world.

If you are passionate about kilts in general and Skilts in particular I’m open to the possibility of partnerships of all kinds.  If you are experienced in PR or fashion retail and are interested in helping take Skilt to the next level please do get in touch.

If you like kilts and enjoyed this history please press the G+1 button below and help other people to find it.

Advertisements

12 responses

  1. Bill Feagin

    Just found this site through a link on Google, had no idea this business existed before – I’m in the States (Salem, Massachusetts, to be exact), own kilts from Utilikilts and Amerikilts, and am wondering if you ship to this side of the pond. If so, expect a new customer soon! Cheers… 🙂

    September 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    • Hi Bill,
      Of course we ship to the colonies! No extra charge. We look forward to shipping a Skilt to you soon!

      Cheers,

      Richard and Max

      October 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm

  2. Peter Cauwenberghs

    I’m glad I found your website as I’m found of kilts myself. And I’m amazed by the variation in the collection! I had never imagined!

    Peter Cauwenberghs
    Antwerp
    Belgium

    February 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm

  3. Pedro Sa

    Hi just found your site.

    I’m wondering if you ship to “Portugal”

    Cheers,

    Pedro Sá

    March 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm

  4. Hi everyone at Skilt. I wear a Kilt everyday and that is why I am known as “The Kiltman” which is posted at my front door along with a sign to take off your shoes before entering. I dance with the RSCDS-Royal Scottish Country Dance Society and was wondering if your Kilt would be acceptable on the dance floor and what would the care be as far as cleaning the KIlt. Is it WASH and WEAR ? Does it have to be DRY CLEANED ? How much ironing does it require ? I wear Utilikilts, Alt Kilts, Sport Kilts, and Hand Made Wool Tartans for full dress events. Any help in this care topic would be appreciated. Thanking you in advance, The Kiltman

    November 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm

  5. Hello Mr Kiltman,

    We use so many different fabrics in our kilts that all the labels say ‘mixed fibres – dry clean only’. This is us erring on the side of caution. Most of them are fine in a low temperature hand or machine wash. Keep the buckles done up as if the leather straps are flapping around they can deposit some of their dye if the fabric around them is light coloured. When it comes out it will require some pressing but as all the pleats are sewed you have a clear guide for where the creases go. There are 16 pleats so it should take you less than 10 minutes.

    As to the appropriateness on the RSCDS dance floor I guess you’d have to ask them. My own experience of wearing one to ceilidhs is that it was well liked and people asked where I bought it from. You may get a more mixed reception if you go for the Union Flag or George Cross kilt!

    Hope that helps,

    Richard.

    November 17, 2014 at 9:07 am

    • After reading your answer Richard and the history of your kilt I can see that it would meet the needs of all occasions. Since my first Utilikilt I have added a “smidgen” to the waist and find 3 of my Utilikilts uncomfortable. I have two choices . . . lose weight or get a kilt that can be adjusted.
      I know that as men age the waist improves in girth. Yes/No. I believe I am going to select a material that can be dressed up. I will do this in the next two weeks and I thank you for your Answer of November 17, 2014. My apology for not finding your answer until today. Yes, I do get some of your updates on other “gents” and thank you.

      May 5, 2016 at 6:10 pm

  6. thekiltman1

    You have made it very clear. I have sent the link to some of the dancers this morning and hopefully it will help them too.
    2015 will be the addition of a SKILT. I like the gray dress Skilt but I do not see the solid gray in the listing any longer but perhaps I just did not look carefully enough. Happy Holidays to you and the team.

    November 17, 2014 at 8:14 pm

  7. Justin

    Happy to have found you as well. I have just under a dozen kilts and look forward to adding one or more of yours to my collection.

    February 2, 2015 at 9:33 pm

  8. Love the site and your style. Need a utility/rugged kilt to wear while working in my shop. I engrave rock/glass/metal and use an industrial sandblaster – want something that’s comfortable while moving and utilitarian. Like your biker style with the piping. Cool stuff!

    February 7, 2015 at 12:40 am

    • Hi Mat,

      Sadly I just sold the last of the really thick black cotton kilts that would have stood up to that sandblaster with ease. I reckon that any Skilt + an apron over the top would do the trick.

      The biker one is pretty damn cool … and looks better in real life than it does in the pictures.

      Cheers,

      Richard.

      February 11, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Leave a Reply

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