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Scottish independents win the Yes vote at home and abroad

There is a bitter-sweet irony that the Drapers Independent Retailer of the Year 2014 is Scottish - very Scottish - and picked up the sought-after accolade on Wednesday, the day before the independence vote north of the border.

In nearly 10 years of chairing the judging committees for various Drapers Awards, I cannot recall a business that attracted such unanimous high praise from our expert judges. And not a single one of them had heard of A Hume Country Clothing before they received their judging packs.

The work of husband and wife Archie and Karen Hume and their team in Kelso in the Scottish Borders is truly inspiring.

Archie is the third generation of his family to run the countrywear business, which was founded in 1929 and has two shops in the town. But it is how ecommerce has been blended with the fine bricks-and-mortar operation that really impressed.

The online approach is mainly the province of Karen, who is quick to say there is no secret to it, just endless hard work and lots of attention to detail - like all retailing in fact. Well done to the Hume clan.

Also carrying a Drapers Award back to Scotland in time for Thursday’s vote was Lauren Ferguson of Sisters Boutique in Falkirk, who topped the Young Fashion Retailer of the Year category having been a finalist last year. Good work, Lauren and the girls.

Writing this on Wednesday, I do not know if the Scots voted Yes or No to independence. I hope the Noes have it but retailers in an independent Scotland will be welcome in all Drapers Awards.

After all, our friends from the Republic of Ireland are regular entrants - and winners. See all the results in our supplement this week. Well done to all contenders, our sponsors and judges. While our various Drapers Awards transcend local national boundaries, international trade of a different scale was on my mind last week when I travelled the 5,500 miles to South Korea, courtesy of Bread & Butter.

The Berlin trade event intends to stage a version in Seoul in September next year to act as a gateway for Western (and Japanese) brands and retailers to sell in Korea and other Asian markets. For more information, see our report here.

It is definitely a bold plan by B&B founder Karl-Heinz Müller and one not without considerable challenges, but he has the benefit of the support of the ebullient mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, who wants to make the South Korean capital a centre for fashion and arts. The mayor comes over as an Asian version of Boris Johnson - which may be viewed as a good or bad thing - but the 600 or so local worthies and celebrities who gathered at the launch party were clearly impressed that such a powerful politician had turned up to voice his support.

Whatever B&B Seoul looks like, it won’t be a conventional trade show as the Korean fashion market operates through distributors and is dominated by a few huge store operators. But a bit of lateral thinking could see British brands find the right partner.

One of the more surprising sights in the stores is the very smart collections of contemporary fashion presented under the banner of Kinloch Anderson, a venerable family-owned manufacturer that is Scotland’s only triple royal warrant holder for making kilts for the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles.

Some years ago it struck the sort of smart licensing deal that might work for other UK brands in South Korea. Trust the Scots to be ahead of most of the pack.

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