Doon the Hidden Lane

The sunny weather of late (well it was while writing this) encouraged me to go for a wander down the Hidden Lane in Finnieston. If you haven’t visited for a while I can highly recommend so many wonderful independent stores rich with antiques, jewellery and bespoke fashion, as well as the wonderful Hidden Lane Tea Room. 

Unique Fashion

One of the brands you will find doon the lane, is the unique designs of the House of Black.  I spoke with David Black the founder and designer to find out what inspired him to create his inimitable collections; “I studied fashion the traditional way at Heriot Watt in the Borders. I feel like I am a stronger designer than I am a seamstress. I always loved fashion, I loved drawing, I loved illustrating. When it came to technical sewing, I was never great at it, but I tried! I learned enough, but it just never came naturally to me.  Fast forward 6 years I ended up going back to do my masters, I think at that point I felt ready to start a business.”

“So while studying I was volunteering part time in a charity shop and if there is one thing about charity shops in the borders, they are the best you will ever get! Farmers have coin! So while working there I couldn’t help but notice all these gorgeous fabrics, curtains and bedding, just beautiful things all essentially going in a rag bag. Rejected pieces were getting shredded, destined for landfill either here or in a third world country, which is just terrible!”

Reconstructed Fashion

“I took as much as I could, my student accommodation became a hoarder’s paradise!  I was just so excited, fabric is expensive, and I was able to mess around and experiment with all these different pieces. I enjoyed working out how to pull garments apart, what happens when you turn it upside down or the wrong way round? What I discovered was I might not be good at traditional pattern cutting, but actually what I really enjoy doing is deconstructing and reimagining something. A complete revelation!” 

What happened after that? “Eventually I started working in a vintage , City Retro, and the wonderful owners there gave me some of their old fabrics and eventually they also let me sell some of my designs and it snowballed from there.”

The House of Black collection pieces are all individually made and bespoke, I asked David how sizing worked for this? “I try my best to make each piece adjustable and versatile size wise as they are one off.  I’d love to get to a stage where I have a range of sizes but I am one man and the lure of the designs also comes from the fact they are one off originals.”

I wanted to know what was the inspiration for his last collection? “The last collection was “Black Ink”. I was inspired by the idea of burnout, I felt absolutely exhausted working seven days a week and nearly everyone I spoke with felt the same. I thought it would be hysterical to do a corporate core collection for a tired burnt out businessman. Many larger businesses masquerade as small businesses and greenwash themselves that way, so I wanted to draw a contrast and pretend to be the big business for a change. 

Conceptual Fashion

David’s previous collection was “Tartan Shortbread” inspired by growing up in Scotland and all the cute Scottish gift shops he remembers visiting as a child. But what is next? “Come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab!” which I personally am very excited to see! 

To gain inspiration for this collection David has been doing the groundwork and watching every gothic comedy horror he can think of! I asked him how he decides upon concepts and collections? “Honestly, it’s whatever I am feeling at that moment! My research kind of expands on the idea, I sketch as I research. I find myself in a nice six month cycle, the first month is for sketching and research, the next is for experimenting and seeing what I can make. Month’s three and four are full-on production; the fifth month is for planning the fashion show, fitting models, planning looks and the six month is for crying in the corner and relaxing!”

David feels that his naturally sustainable style, reusing fabrics is a “perfect marriage”. For him ‘it keeps prices down, lets me be conceptual and interesting and gives me essentially a free source of materials while also saving all this beautiful fabric from landfill.”

The Hidden Lane has such a variety of businesses, I asked David how he felt the location suited him, “This location is great, from a production and client basis, I have a great creative space to work and being front facing to the lane is ideal for footfall.”  David still stocks in City Retro, and sells via stockists in London and via his website.

Finally I asked David if you had one thing to say to a new fashion student starting out what would you say? “Make cool things and the rest will follow! People want the fun stuff, they want the weird stuff and it took for me to make something totally way out that I thought would never sell to realise that! Don’t make what you think they want, make the stuff you want!” Love this, perfect advice!

Stunning Jewellery

Another stand out store I visit in the lane is “In the Heather” a designer of beautiful handcrafted Scottish inspired jewellery. I asked the owner and founder Paul what inspired him to start?  “The term “In The Heather” comes from a very old Scottish story, almost lost to history. I collect antique Scottish books with folklore, the supernatural and unexplained events and when I stumbled across this story, I had an epiphany of sorts.

The story goes that a young lad who worked the land, many hundreds of years ago, was down on his luck – ruined harvests, sick parents and having no money, no food or a way to support his ailing family. One day he threw himself face down in a heather field and wept. With his face in the heather, he felt the tiny hands of fairies rub magic ointment on his eyelids and when he opened his eyes again, he had been gifted the ability to see the world in a more beautiful way. The brand name “In The Heather” has a kind of magic to me.”

Flower Power

“I am also fascinated by the habitat of the heather fields here in Scotland and there is a natural element to the brand name as well. We not only make real Scottish heather jewellery but a wide range of flower, animal and insect jewellery. Everything we create is based on plants and animals that live in the heather as well as some traditional Scottish jewellery. It is vital to me that the jewellery is not only beautiful, but made to last generations.”  I can testify to the beauty of the diverse collections; there’s something for everyone no matter your taste in jewellery design.

Now I wanted to understand where Paul got his inspiration from for such beautiful varied collections? “I am inspired by what is often under-appreciated and overlooked. Heather for example is abundant when you travel around Scotland and most people miss the heather bloom each August / September but to create jewellery where it is wearable, functional and beautiful as a little piece of Scottish heritage is priceless.”

Sustainability is so important to “In The Heather”. They are an almost 100% sustainable eco brand and use mostly recycled sterling silver and only ethical gemstones.  Another key element of the brand’s sustainability process is that they create real forget-me-not jewellery and several other real Scottish flower lines. Every one of their Scottish flowers, as a raw product, is grown by small families and they only use flowers that grow year on year so they can keep it even more sustainable. The forget-me-nots are grown in Blairgowrie by a private family and the heather is grown by a farming family who kindly allow us to collect it each year.

Castles, Farms and Boutiques

Paul is floored by how fast the business has grown and now supplies almost every castle in Scotland as well as the National Trust for Scotland and several other quality retailers. “Retail has been very good for us at the Hidden Lane and I would love to have shops all over Scotland, but as they say – one step at a time. One of my dreams for “In The Heather” is to open a botanical farm with a restaurant and big gift shop where we can grow our own produce and people can come and choose their own flowers to make into jewellery. I think the brand has massive potential and I want to make sure we are reaching as many people as possible.”

With such amazing success for a small Scottish founded brand I wanted to ask Paul what advice he would give for someone with a start-up dream? “My biggest piece of advice for new business owners and brands is not to put all their eggs in one basket, not to copy others, but to listen to their customers and create products or experiences that people actually want to buy or need. We live in a very competitive world and having a thick skin is vital. It is also critically important to create branches in your business; create a product that works in wholesale, online and possibly in retail too. Only having one of these routes could mean you’re more likely to fail. And nobody wants that.”

“I think the hustle culture we live in is incredibly damaging but having a poor work ethic will damage you more. A business is literally 24/7 and the internet never sleeps. You need to be willing to put 100% in, 100% of the time. Luck doesn’t exist in business.”

Hidden Gems

And what did Paul think of being located in the sunny (sometimes) Hidden Lane? “There is nothing else like the Hidden Lane in Scotland. We have over 100 studios here teeming with talent and it is an artist and small creator lead community. It’s such a friendly place to exist and the Lane community has been exceptional for In The Heather. We are undergoing a big renovation mid June and afterwards we will launch our new skincare line. It’s all go go go! You can find us on the main path with the purple door. We are open 7 days 10am – 5pm.

House of Black
15 Argyle Court, 
The Hidden Lane, 
1103 Argyle St,
G3 8ND

In the Heather
1103 Argyle St, Unit 23,
The Hidden Lane,
G3 8ND

Return to Fashion and Beauty Articles


SanFair Newsletter

The latest on what’s moving world – delivered straight to your inbox