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My Fashion Life: Sam McCoach, founder of Le Kilt

Le Kilt founder Sam McCoach is reviving the tartan wrapover skirt’s fashion credentials


The granddaughter of a kilt maker, Edinburgh-born Sam McCoach grew up surrounded by tartan. However, it was only after completing a degree in fashion that she realised how cool it could be.

After its first on-schedule show at London Fashion Week for autumn 15, Le Kilt has attracted stockists such as avant-garde boutiques Dover Street Market and Opening Ceremony, and is on the verge of launching in London’s Harvey Nichols with a specially designed exclusive kilt.

Tell us about your background.

I grew up in Leith, Edinburgh, and studied fashion at the Edinburgh College of Art before moving to London to start my master’s degree at the Royal College of Art in 2008.

What sparked your initial interest in fashion?

Le Kilt autumn 15

Le Kilt autumn 15

Growing up, I just loved clothes. I would spend hours on the high street with my friends at the weekend, trying things on in the changing room. I went to art college with the intention of studying painting, but I never really fitted in with the painters. I knew that the fashion course would be a big challenge and that was part of the attraction.

What inspired you to start a brand dedicated to the kilt?

Le Kilt started as a bit of a hobby. My grandmother was a kilt maker in Edinburgh when I was a child. One Christmas I came home from London and she had made me the best Black Watch kilt using all the traditional techniques. We started to make some for friends and the business went from there. [Wholesale prices for the kilts range from £140 to £175].

Aside from kilts, what else does your brand offer?

I introduced a small Scottish-made cashmere offering for autumn 15, including turtleneck jumpers in a range of colours and a traditional Scottish tam o’shanter. I’m obsessed with subcultures and wanted to allude to that, so I also designed a small range of simple graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring the innovative scrawlings of emerging sign painter Robert Gibson.

What kind of woman do you design for? Is there anyone you’d love to see wearing Le Kilt?

Le Kilt appeals to lots of different women, as kilts can be very girly, or classic and chic.

Your collection is launching in Harvey Nichols London for autumn 15, along with an exclusive style. Can you tell us more about it?

It will be a white wool-crêpe knee-length kilt with pleats all the way around and a white matte buckle. So far the buckles have always been black patent - it’s a small change but it’s a special detail.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

It would have to be our first on-schedule London Fashion Week presentation last season at L’Escargot in Soho. My grandmother came down to London for it – she was over the moon and a bit starstruck. That was a major highlight.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

My job has actually changed quite a bit in the past few weeks. I’ve just left my full-time job at Fred Perry, where I worked with a great team. I loved it. Now I’m starting to get used to working for myself. I would say that is both the best and worst thing about my job at the minute.

Le Kilt autumn 15

Le Kilt autumn 15

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

There is no ‘I’ in team. Be patient, listen and learn.

What is the most treasured item in your wardrobe?

A navy and grey wool vintage Balenciaga skirt, which my boyfriend brought back from Italy for me.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time, outside of running your business?

It’s summer, so I’ll be spending lots of time in the park having barbecues with friends.

What’s next for Le Kilt? What are your plans for the year ahead?

Spring 16 is a real opportunity. I want to show how versatile the kilt is and the different ways in which it can be worn. I’m planning to introduce new pieces to the line and look at how we can continue to tell the Le Kilt story with an exciting Fashion Week presentation.

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