Tartan: First exhibition in 30 years dedicated to Scotland’s national fabric opens at V&A Dundee

A new exhibition devoted solely to tartan was opened in Scotland, for the first-time in over 30 years.

More than 300 objects from telephone boxes to high-end fashion are on show in the display, which is being staged at V&A Dundee.

The museum team have taken more than three years to source items featuring Scotland’s national fabric from around the world.

Tartan at V and A Dundee.

Exhibition curator Kirsty Hassard said: “There’s been so much enthusiasm for the exhibition from the very beginning.

“We’ve just been overwhelmed by people’s enthusiasm for the topic and by their generosity in lending their beautiful and priceless treasures to the exhibition.

“We explore fact and fiction in equal measure to look at the enduring impact of this textile as a set of rules for designers in the 21st century.

“It also feels very timely to be exploring tartan from a global and diverse perspective, and we are grateful to our advisory group for underpinning this expansive research.”

The oldest piece of Scottish Tartan on display for the first time at V and A Dundee.

The past, present, and future of tartan are also explored in clothing, furniture, and artworks clad with the iconic print.

Tartan runs at V&A Dundee from Saturday, April 1 until January 2024.

What tartan can mean to you: Identity, rebellion, and good times

Tartan is one such fabric and print that is universally recognized.

Now, a new exhibition at V&A Dundee solely dedicated to the print is exploring its history.

The display features more than 300 items featuring tartan, including furniture, art, and fashion.

But tartan is more than a checked print; throughout history it’s been used to create a sense of identity and as a symbol of rebellion.

Vivienne Westwood, one of the most well-known fashion designers, used tartan to communicate anarchy through punk.

Social change continues with tartan. Dior fashion house used tartan in a campaign for equality of women in 2019,

The first female head of the house of Dior Maria Grazia Chiuri designed a T-shirt and skirt ensemble, which is on show. Full oversized tartan skirts were teamed with T-shirts emblazoned with 'Sisterhood is Powerful’

Nichola, a designer of menswear, found both sides to his family history represented at the exhibition.

He said: “I’m mixed race. My mum’s from Lochee, Dundee and my dad’s from Saint Ann’s in Jamaica. These cities and other places are both mentioned in this exhibit.

“They talk about the use of tartan in the West Indies, in Jamaica and the Caribbean to identify slaves and how it was used as a commodity for ownership or purchasing of slaves, which is connected to me.”

He uses the pattern often and deconstructs it to give it new meaning. He has even created his own.

 Designer Nicholas Daley wearing a hat made with his own Daley tartan.

Tartan is a way to evoke childhood memories and give you a feeling of belonging when you travel.

Graham McTavish is the ambassador for this exhibition.

He said: “Tartan means a great time to me. I’ve never worn a kilt, never been in a situation where tartan has been present where I haven’t enjoyed myself.

Actor Graham McTavish

“And I think that’s what it does. There’s something about it.. there’s something about that combination of colour, design pattern, the garment of a kilt that invites people to join in a celebratory experience.

“It’s not a garment, it’s not a pattern that pushes you away, it draws you in.”

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