IT was once a world leader in the manufacture of linen and while the mills which employed thousands in their day are long gone, Dunfermline’s heritage has inspired a designer launching her debut clothing range.
When lockdown struck homeware designer Claire Christie, founder of Clarabella Christie, found the shops and exhibitions spaces she would normally supply to close overnight.
However, the 50-year-old was still seeking a creative outlet and returned to a passion she had longed to focus on.
Having always had an interest in dressmaking, who credits her mum for her creativity as she made clothes and knitted jumpers for her and her five siblings, Mrs Christie took this up again in lockdown and has now taken it to whole new level with the launch of her debut clothing line.
Her experience of lockdown inspired a change of direction after focusing on her own homeware range for many years. Based in Dunfermline, she has also drawn on the town’s architectural heritage for her bold and colourful patterns.
The 50-year-old, originally from Paisley, Renfrewshire, studied textile design at Glasgow School of Art in the early 1990s and went on to have a career in set design and costume in the theatre in Bristol before moving back to Scotland and having her two children.
“I started out as a window dresser before moving into set design,” said Mrs Christie. “I was working for a major department store in Bristol, not unlike Are You Being Served? in many ways with the characters who worked there. We made all our own props and I had created an Ascot themed window when it caught the eye of an operatic director. It really was something out of a fairytale. I was offered a job in theatre set design and it covered everything from sets, to costumes to props.”
She set up a homeware business under the banner of Clarabella Design Studio in 2007 but it wasn’t until confined to her home during the pandemic that she decided to pursue her dream of having her own clothing line. With more time on her hands she decided to learn the art of pattern cutting and started to experiment with putting her prints onto dresses.
Mrs Christie, whose studio is based in Abbot House, the oldest building in Dunfermline dating back to the 16th century, said: “I used to make my homeware items only out of vintage fabrics from the 1960s and 1970s but ended up not being able to find the material I wanted and so became determined to create my own.
To do this went I back to school in 2018 – Fife College – to study digital design. This gave me the skills to enable me to create a range of prints, something I had always wanted to do. My starting point was my love of the heady colours and patterns of the Sixties and from this I have created a selection of prints and garments.”
There is certainly more than a splash of colour in the eye-catching range and is a collection which pays homage to Dunfermline’s architectural heritage.
“Dunfermline used to be known for weaving and was particularly renowned for the production of linen. My studio in the town’s Maygate is in the oldest building in Dunfermline and looks out over the Heritage Quarter,” added Mrs Christie. “I wanted to create prints that captured something of the town’s textile spirit and architectural history while injecting vibrant colour and life into the fabric.
“On part of my daily walks I see sections of buildings from doorways to windows that are all part of the town’s architectural past and I wanted to use these in my patterns.
“I am very proud that we are making these garments in Scotland and in Dunfermline in particular given its heritage.”
The Dunfermline collection entitled Hometown has three pieces – a tunic, dress and skirt available in a variety of different designs and colours.
Passionate about keeping production in Fife, Mrs Christie is using a small family manufacturing business called Livingston & Sons in Lochgelly. Everything will be made to order with Mrs Christie hand finishing the garments herself.
She added: “I’ve done a couple of pop-up boutiques to test the waters and both had really positive feedback – and orders. I’m really excited about the launch on Saturday and bringing my small, exclusive collection to a wide audience.”
For more information go to www.clarabellachristie.co.uk/