Meet the Team
Hazel Smith, Director
Starting out in community education 30 years ago, Hazel set up, developed and managed organisations and projects combatting exclusion and inequality working with third sector and public sector services and economic development agencies. Much of the work has focused on children, young people and women: managing Youth Agencies and Women onto Work in Edinburgh; working with the European Commission on research and development projects that promoted women’s and young people’s participation in education, enterprise and employment.
7 years ago, after a stint volunteering in rural Senegal with women and children’s charities, she returned to Scotland and set-about developing social enterprises that supported women and families. One of those enterprises has won numerous awards for promoting egalitarian values and empowering vulnerable women to be leaders in their lives and communities. She is a former Board Member of a number of charities working on behalf of women, children and other disadvantaged groups and currently holds a public appointment with the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration.
Hazel is a former care-experienced child and young person and someone whose career path has primarily focused on working with disadvantaged groups and communities. That commitment was informed by her first 18 years in care; starting out youthwork in her late teens through to setting-up and managing local, regional and national initiatives that focused on equality, inclusion, wellbeing and care for those who are most vulnerable, including our children and young people.
She is currently developing a legacy of 130 registered tartans, including the “Tartans for Africa Collection,” bequeathed by a talented philanthropist, David McGill – under the banner of Tartans for Social and Humanitarian Good.
Nicca Nicholson, Business Development & Brand Manager
Nicca’s education and early career focused on fashion with textiles design and digital graphic communications. She is a graduate of Ravensbourne University in London. She progressed into a number of roles in retail and catering where she developed her knowledge of commercial business, brand identity and promotional strategy applying her creative and design skills in the process.
After moving into the Museums sector, Nicca had roles specializing in Operational Support, Conference and Events Coordination, Administrative Process Mapping, Change Management, Business Continuity Disaster Planning and Digital Design for Publishing and Space Planning. The underlying backdrop of her work focused on the environmental impacts of climate change. This sparked an awareness of the need for change in fashion consumerism.
After bringing her young family to start a new life in the Scottish Borders, Nicca was looking to find her place and purpose, while meeting people and integrating into a new community. It was a good day when she crossed the threshold of ReTweed where she was able to reignite her passion for design, textiles and sewing. Serendipity also stepped in when International Tartans was bequeathed to ReTweed and Hazel was looking for hearts, minds and hands to help her orientate her way forward with a legacy of huge value and untapped opportunity. Nicca has been able to apply her practical, design and digital skills to best effect with our tartans, the marketing materials and more recently, our most excellent website. Her enthusiasm and passion has been infectious and amid the challenges of a start-up charity and commercially savvy business, she’s been a motivating influence to those around her.
David McGill (Founder)
Back in the mists of time, well 1997 to be exact, David was working on tourism and hospitality projects in Midlothian as a chartered architect. The Local Authority commissioned him to establish a theme or a brand for the area and the idea of a tartan struck him.
Reading the biography of Walter Scott at the time, David had a particular curiosity around Scott’s use of tartan pageantry in organising the trip of King George IV to Scotland in 1822. He launched himself into the rabbit warren of history of Scottish Tartans, discovering some of what is widely believed about tartan to be myth rather than fact. A little background research put David in touch with Keith Lumsden, archivist of the then Scottish Tartan Society. It seemed that things might not be all they appeared to be and that many of the tartans we regarded today as ancient were in fact designed for that particular royal visit.
Drawing upon his architectural skills, David set about designing The ‘Midlothian’ Tartan; researching the history of area and speaking with local folk threw up suggestions for appropriate colours - gold and green for its agriculture and black for its coal. When David submitted the design for registration Keith Lumsden was especially chuffed at seeing a ‘district’ tartan. He felt it was, in some ways more reflective of origins of tartan when local plant dyes would have dictated colours. Encouraged by his reaction David designed several more ‘county’ or district tartans with representatives local to those areas. These included in sequence, Lanarkshire, Fife, West Lothian, Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire, East Lothian and then later, Berwickshire and Borderlands.
David then progressed into the design of tartans based upon prominent Scottish titles like:
The Queen of Scots designed and registered in 1999 in celebration of the re-creation of the Scottish Parliament and the reinstatement of this unique monarchical title after 300 years
In the same year the Rosslyn Chapel Tartan was designed in collaboration with volunteers and the then Chief Executive of the Trust. The colours and design reflected the natural landscape surrounding the Rosslyn and the colours within the Chapel.
The Loch Lomond Tartan came shortly afterwards, reflecting ‘threads’ of history and a deep reverence for the landscape around Loch Lomond afterwards. The same tartan has been applied for good in raising funds for The Children’s Hospice Association.
It wasn’t until 2004 that the opportunity arose to design a tartan for a country. 2005 was the centenary of the creation of Norway. David was asked by Norwegian Scots to design a tartan to mark the occasion. The design process was simple; a combination of the colours in the two national flags backed up by a history of the historical links between the Scotland and Norway of which there were many. Consuls and Honorary Consuls representing most European countries were based in Edinburgh. Each of them in turn recognised the value of celebrating the unique cultural and historical links with Scotland. The Norwegian Centennial, Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic tartans all found their way to respective Monarchs and Political Leaders. The historical background between the Scotland and the Nordic countries was researched and translated ensuring it was accessible to all those with a desire to wear the tartan.
The ‘twinning’ of Scotland with Malawi in 2004 was celebrated with the creation of the first African tartan – Malawi. This in turn led to the idea of providing an inter-tribal international symbol for 25 other African countries that have been used to provide them with a unique individual identity and applied in fundraising and community enterprise initiatives both here in Scotland and in other African countries including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa and Sudan.
International Tartans’ first tartan, the Midlothian is registered number 2446 on the Scottish Register of Tartans. The most recent registration is 13,912, equivalent to nearly 500 new tartans being designed and registered each year since 1998. Clearly tartan is a language all of its own.
International Tartans has worked closely with the award-winning textiles social enterprise called ReTweed since 2016. ReTweed students were trained to manufacture high-quality tartan accessories (mostly scarves, plaids, shawls and sashes). The two businesses have since designed and developed new tartans and tartan products that focus on making tartan for everyone and moving it forward from its stereotype of men in kilts. Given that ReTweed’s social justice values were aligned with the aspirations of many of the tartans designed by David McGill, he bequeathed all rights and licences to ReTweed.
That is where the back story ends and the next chapter begins.
Looking to the future, we will take this legacy forward in a way that honours David’s passion for celebrating culture and supporting equality and the common good.