– Autumn/Winter 2013

Rodchenko’s Worker’s Suit Had No Fly

Tags: Lucy McKenzie

Unlike wool, which is ‘born’ rather than ‘made’, traditions, as opposed to customs, can be as constructed as the patchwork of folk paganism in the 1970s horror film The Wicker Man.1 Hugh Trevor-Roper’s 1983 essay ‘The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland’ outlines the apocryphal origins of clan tartan.2 Trevor-Roper proposes that they stem not from an indigenous nobility but from a combination of Walter Scott’s Romantic personal vision and eighteenthcentury English militarism. Despite the disparaging tone in which it is written, and its obvious contempt for such inauthentic heritage, the essay contains insights that invite further examination.

Atelier E.B., ‘The Inventors of Tradition’ Collection, 2011. Drawing by Lucy McKenzie depicting: Atelier E.B. in collaboration with Steven Purvis, Lanoir (White), work coat in Barkweave cotton; and Atelier E.B. in collaboration with Begg Scotland, Moira (Grey side), Running Dog wrap skirt in lambswool. Courtesy Atelier E.B. The designer Beca Lipscombe and I, working under the name Atelier E.B., present our first fashion collection, encompassing high-quality wovens, knitwear, raincoats, workwear and accessories. This collection is part of the project ‘The Inventors of Tradition’, which also included an exhibition, a film screening and a publication.3 We wanted to discover what lies behind the public image of Scottish style, what industry has survived the shift to the Far East and if the claim that symbolic value has vastly overtaken actual productive and creative might is correct. In so doing we continue Trevor-Roper’s analysis of myth, but in a new climate and without his prejudices.

The purpose of the collection was to

  1. Robin Hardy, The Wicker Man, 1973.

  2. See Hugh Trevor-Roper, ‘The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland’, in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (ed.), The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp.15—42.

  3. The exhibition ‘The Inventors of Tradition’ was held in a retail space in Glasgow from 22 January until 26 February 2011, and the eponymous film screening took place at Glasgow Film Theatre on 24 February 2011. See also B. Lipscombe and L. McKenzie, op. cit.