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Fireside chat on inspiration
The Expert View

Fireside chat on ‘Inspiration’ with Alistair McDade, Kinalba Creative Director

Interviewer: Jamie Simpson

Hi Alistair, I’m interested to find out a little more about the people behind the Kinalba brand. As you’ve been the inspiration for the accessory range designs, talk us through some of the people and brands who inspire you.

I take inspiration from all over the place – from both inside and outside of the textile and fashion industry. From the world of fashion, Alexander McQueen takes me beyond normal fashion into a world of almost movie-like fantasy and otherworldliness. His creations and legacy transformed the way I look at textiles, drape, and styling. This all followed on from an explosive time of creativity with people like Paul Smith, Scott Crolla, Pam Hogg, The Cloth, John Galliano, plus a whole raft of British design that came after. Anyone can do a feeling of punk but McQueen seemed to take all of that and raise everything to a new level. The whole couture area fascinates me – the extreme precision of eye and detail.

Within textiles, I’m going back a little in time here, Alastair Morton and the Edinburgh weavers (who I wrote my thesis on at the RCA) where my main textile related inspiration. Alongside designer Alec Hunter they worked with artists such as Ben Nicolson, Henry Moore and many other contemporary artists of the time to create incredibly desirable, beautiful textiles.

On a smaller and more current scale, individual weavers like Sam Goates, of Woven in the Bone, I admire greatly for her knowledge, enthusiasm and downright doggedness to succeed against so much. Also, another who springs to mind for current inspiration is the graphic designer and storyteller Stefan Sagmeister. He has been an influence as he makes me laugh, think, question and generally stay curious.

Alexander McQueen Collection courtesy of: DEE_1122

And what about outside of the industry?

Poetry has always been a part of my life. I can remember at college my parents sending me £10 for food as I had no money. Instead I spent it on a book of Bertolt Brecht poetry! I’ve more than made up for missing those meals ever since. Following on from Brecht, I’ve been a keen admirer of the works of Walt Whitman, Liz Lochhead, and Norman MacCaig. But the one that I’ve stayed loyal to is John Cooper Clarke. Perhaps, because I like to laugh and I like the slightly irreverent and disruptive side of things.

Lee Miller, the photographer, reporter, and so much more, is hard not to like. Her work is beautiful, brave, and provocative – particularly as seen through Patricia Allmer’s ‘​Dangerous Women Project​’. She, alongside others forged a way ahead for equality of the sexes and proving without doubt that women were (at least) the equal to men.

Finally, I also like to take inspiration from more modern thinkers such as Edward de Bono, Alain de Botton and his School of Life. Another I’d recommend is David Hieatt and what he has created with Do Lectures and Hiut Denim Co.

Image courtesy of: John Cooper Clarke / Daniel Easton

What has the textile industry taught you that’s been invaluable?

The textile industry has taught me that you’re always learning; you can always be amazed by the skills, the techniques, the new inventions, and the ancient skills; that colour is beautiful; that touch is sensational, sensual; and that people can be amazing in so many good ways. The textile industry is a great community, and a wonderful life to be had. Also travel broadens the mind.

Alistair, how do you feed your own creativity?

Through movies, reading, and being curious generally. I also like talking to younger people such as students or graduates who have raw energy and haven’t experienced the pitfalls of business life, so their ideas are not diluted and they are still idealistic.

Other areas include looking through old archives, and boxes of fabrics. And when I get out of the loft and out into the world, just generally taking in nature and the landscape around us. I’m also trying to push myself, not become too static or staid. As I say remaining curious, and experiencing something new that takes me out of my comfort zone. At the time it can make you anxious, but if you go for it, it keeps you growing. My approach is to have a go without becoming stymied by fear.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given or heard?

I’ve had many good pieces of advice, those I remember were often given by wise sages who knew and understood me. James Sugden, Managing Director of Johnstons of Elgin at the time, often quoted “don’t let the bastards grind you down” or “seize the day”, often though in latin mind you.

Roland Brett, who was MD when I first started as design and sales director at Robert Noble, took me aside and perhaps based on what he’d heard or seen, gave me great advice when he said ‘sleep on it Alistair, and if you still feel the same way in the morning then act.” For an impetuous and often sharp tongued younger man it was good advice!

But the best advice I think in a business sense was again from James Sugden who gave it to one of my design team whilst I was in attendance. And that was “make a decision. We can always clear up the mess if you are wrong but for goodness sake make a decision, otherwise, we will never move forward.” It’s stuck with me and often when one is confronted with indecision due to changes in business or personal life, I think it’s a great place to start from. Just do it and see what happens.

What are some of your lessons in (business) life that have helped you along the way?

I think in business there is always room for everyone and also you’ll always have your haters no matter what you do. So, do what you think is right and stand by it till someone proves you wrong. But don’t be put off by the doubters and haters and critics.

 

 

On a more personal level, talk us through what inspires you to get you out of bed in the morning:

Osaka, Japan

Apart from getting up to let the dog out before it messes on my floor rugs, I get up early because I like to see the sunrise – and with that the possibilities a new day brings: a new song or singer enters your life, a friend calls, a movie is released or a book printed that you want to read. Taking photos gives me pleasure also. It’s a different creative discipline but often feeds my musings on Kinalba scarves and products. Once we can get back to travel and meet interesting people from around the world, I’d like to fly into Osaka and spend time in Japan’s cities; walk up Madison and 5th Avenue in NYC; be amazed at the variety of people and looks that London offers. But for now the sun rising on each new day and studying what we will do next for the Kinalba Collection is a joy in itself.

Gift Wrapping - Information

Have your luxurious Kinalba product gift wrapped in elegant, sustainable packaging. Our gift to you is that it’s completely free of charge – as is delivery. We will handwrite your message for that personal touch. You can include this in the check out process before payment. Thank you for shopping with Kinalba x

Terms

  • All packaging is recyclable and intended to be used as many times as possible to store your product or for any other purpose.
  • Packaging includes tissue paper to protect your product and then inserted into a Kinalba branded gift envelope (tied with a tartan ribbon during the Festive Season). If you have purchased a Balvenie Throw then we use a large Kinalba box.
  • Notes are hand-written on recycled A6 card and are limited to 120 characters.
  • Where possible we will reduce the amount of packaging by placing two items in one gift envelope.
  • Our service is free of charge.

Gift Wrapping - Information

Have your luxurious Kinalba product gift wrapped in elegant, sustainable packaging. Our gift to you is that it’s completely free of charge – as is delivery. We will handwrite your message for that personal touch. You can include this in the check out process before payment. Thank you for shopping with Kinalba x

Terms

  • All packaging is recyclable and intended to be used as many times as possible to store your product or for any other purpose.
  • Packaging includes tissue paper to protect your product and then inserted into a Kinalba branded gift envelope (tied with a tartan ribbon during the Festive Season). If you have purchased a Balvenie Throw then we use a large Kinalba box.
  • Notes are hand-written on recycled A6 card and are limited to 120 characters.
  • Where possible we will reduce the amount of packaging by placing two items in one gift envelope.
  • Our service is free of charge.