Tartan tradition lives on

Tartan tradition lives on at House of Tartan


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House of Tartan keeps things traditional with stitching repairs done by hand and an old steam iron in use.

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House of Tartan owners Heather and Jim Anderson enjoy being part of the Scottish community in WA and have lots of stories to tell after 11 years in the Mt Lawley-based 
Business.

House of Tartan owners Heather and Jim Anderson enjoy being part of the Scottish community in WA and have lots of stories to tell after 11 years in the Mt Lawley-based Business.

THE House of Tartan was established in 1995 and from small beginnings in a Perth home it had grown to the point where it was too big to contain in the living room.

The business focuses on making and hiring out kilts and dresses for the Scottish community in WA.

In 2007 Heather and Jim Anderson took over the business and with the help and support of the local Scottish Community over the past 11 years, it has become a success story in Mt Lawley.

Ms Anderson said the House of Tartan has become “the hub of the Scottish community in WA” - with people from all over the region wanting to hire and purchase clothing and accessories for weddings, important events or just for their own collection.

“When the season warms up it is generally when business starts booming,” Ms Anderson said.

“We’ve just had the busiest week last week.

“November is always the busiest time.”

When Farm Weekly went to the store she had just finished fitting out two wedding parties.

There was also a pile of kilts to resize or make on the table out the back, as well as a few dresses, to be delivered to customers in coming weeks.

Ms Anderson has more than 20 years’ experience in supplying kilts and accessories and describes the business as the “experts in tartan” in WA.

Everything is still done the old way as well, with stitching repairs by hand and ironing or pressing done with an old steam iron.

Ms Anderson said she kept the local dry cleaner in business with all the hire returns.

While all tartans are 100 per cent pure wool milled in Scotland, the finer fabric blends are made up from a mixture of Australian Merino wool and the coarser wool types from Scotland.

She said in the old days the original tartans were made from Scottish wool that was prickly and coarse – but would allow the water to run off easily.

These days there is a lot more variety with heavy to light weight garments available – appealing to a wider range of buyers.

The House of Tartan is the only registered business in WA with The Scottish Tartans Authority which means it can provide customers with information on their clan, family, Scottish district, county (Irish), Welsh or Cornish tartan.

They have a range of tartan samples at the shop to assist in choosing the right one.

Ms Anderson said over the years as kilts have become more fashionable, more generic black and grey designs have emerged which anyone can wear on any occasion.

A range of kilts on display at the House of Tartan.

A range of kilts on display at the House of Tartan.

The House of Tartan has kitted out the Edinburgh Tattoo in the Duntroon Military College tartan when it performed in Melbourne in 2016.

It has also provided services to travelling shows such as ballets and other performers when they are in Perth.

What stands out about this business is its connection to people.

The store averages up to four purchases and between 20 and 30 hire orders each week.

Customers, with Scottish roots from all over the world, can arrive at the store with a story to tell and a desire to learn more about their heritage.

“One man came in and wanted a kilt from his grandfather’s clan, so we matched it up and fitted him out and he walked out of the store proudly wearing his family tartan,” Ms Anderson said.

“Sometimes we are so busy there is a line of customers in the store and because it takes a little while to assist one customer with measurements and material the customers start up a conversation and they can be here for hours.

“Good stories come out of this shop.

“You could write a book about it.”

The business has more than 3800 followers on Facebook, showing its wide appeal in the community.

The story of the tartan is closely linked to the story of Scotland, which is a story of clans and regions, of people who lived off the land and by the sword.

Belonging to a clan and wearing its colours was as important to a Scot as life itself.

But it was once an act of treason for a Scot to wear the clan tartan.

After the Jacobite uprising, which was squashed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, a Scot was prohibited from wearing their clan colours, with severe punishment for those who rebelled against the Crown.

Many of the rebellion’s leaders were executed in London following their capture.

In an effort to stamp out any more rebellions by the Scots the Dress Act of 1746 was introduced, which banned tartans except for the Highland regiments of the British army.

Some landowners were also able to keep theirs.

That punishment for their pursuit of an independent Scotland came to an end when the law was repealed in 1782 – lasting long enough for many of the original tartan designs to be forgotten.

In the late 1700s and during the 1800s many Scots were driven from, or chose to leave their highland homes to emigrate to various parts of the world including Australia – which also distanced generations from their clans and heritage.

Their Scottish lords wanted to run sheep on the land that the highlanders spilt blood to defend – as the wool and meat market boomed in Britain.

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When the policy was changed Scottish clans began to produce and wear their kilts again and by 1822 about 200 different tartans were registered with the Scottish Tartans Society (which no longer exists).

The Scottish Tartans Authority is now the official place to seek out a tartan or to have one authorised for production.

In recent years there has been a growing resurgence by Scottish descendants to search out their roots and connect with their clan.

The House of Tartan, with its direct links back to the last three operating mills that produce authentic Scottish tartans, has positioned itself in a unique and important part of that community in Australia.

Ms Anderson said the business was for sale and if she can’t sell it she would look at options such as online shopping or upgrading the store.

She said it was such a vital part of the WA Scottish community that she couldn’t walk away from it without knowing it was in good hands.

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