Tartan Hero Of The Month – March

Brian Wilton (MBE) is sometimes referred to as the “King of Tartan” due to his many years of service in the industry. When he was director of the Scottish Tartan Authority, he discovered he had a knack for tartan design and when STA’s registration processes were transferred to the Scottish Government’s official Scottish Register of Tartans, he pursued that and made it his main focus.

Mr Wilton comparing notes with Beefeaters at Buckingham Palace

Wilton was born in Bannockburn, near Stirling castle. During his career, out of the approximately 12,000 tartans that have been registered, Brian has designed about 250 of them. Surprisingly though, tartan was not a staple in his wardrobe before the 1980s. Since then, he has embraced tartan not only as an expression of culture, but as a tool that can connect modern day life to history.

Brian proud of the North Artic Convoy Tartan

In true tartan hero style, Brian owns nine kilts, three of which are Fraser tartans from his grandmothers side. He is no stranger to experimental textiles and techniques, and has items in his collection such as a fashion kilt in Harris Tweed, and a brown kilt made from fabric from an upholstery collection. He too is a fan of Houston’s quality Highland wear and in addition to kilts has pairs of tartan trews and trousers. His favourite tartan however, at least amongst the clan tartans, is the 1819 Old Stewart. The rarest piece of tartan he owns is clan tartans hand-woven by the late Jamie Scarlett MBE.

In addition to education, Brian is also passionate about breaking the traditional image of Highland dress. Whilst the origins of Highland dress is linked to Highland regiments and it being part of military uniform, Brian is keen for this not to be the only picture we conjure when we think of Highland dress. He believes such a rigid idea of what a kilt outfit is meant to look like limits people in not only their individual expression but stunts the growth of the trend – for Highland dress to remain part of our culture, there must be room for it to morph and change into a new version.

Brian with tartans he designed for the Royal College of Midwives and the Gleneagles G8

This desire to dismantle the stereotypical idea of what Highland dress is is fuelled in part by modern fashion. Brian states one of his most enthusiastic campaigns personally and professionally is encouraging major companies and brands to acquire their own tartans and incorporate them into their branding. Many of his design commissions have resulted in just that: Edinburgh Fringe, Nandos, B&Q and O2 are just a few examples.

Brian, as well as being a pillar of the tartan industry, is a forward thinker. He understands the significance of tartan in history as well as the role is can play in modern society. He is not all tartan all the time, however, and enjoys listening to Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Julie Fowlis and Duncan Chisholm. When asked which past or present Scottish dinner guest he would choose, he answered William Wilson of Bannockburn, Donald Dewar and Flora Macdonald.

Brian wearing the Khalsa Sikh Tartan of which he helped come to fruition.

You may also like...

6 Responses

  1. John McNeil says:

    A lovely article and I have had the pleasure of communicating with Brian some years ago.

  2. George M. Barlow says:

    Brian just created a beautiful district tartan for my home county. Go to the STR look under the letter “B” and you’ll find the Broome County NY District tartan. All based on the early history of Broome County.

  3. Hello Hello Hello!!

    This is Parminder Kaur Kooner, Founder of Khalsa Tartan, which was proudly designed by the man himself, Brian Wilton (MBE)

    Thank you so much for bringing to fruition the Khalsa Tartan.

    9the April 2022, is a landmark date for Khalsa Tartan, as it makes debut in the New York Tartan Parade 2022.

    Also wish to thank Houston Kiltmakers who are going to be the makers of future Khalsa Tartan Kilts and Trews and more.

    Big shout out to Houston Kiltmakers!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *