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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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