Tweed, Tartan and Scottish Textiles: Meet Araminta Campbell Founder Araminta Birse-Stewart

Tweed, Tartan and Scottish Textiles: Meet Araminta Campbell Founder Araminta Birse-Stewart

Fast fashion is so last season. As we embrace life in the slow lane, the textiles designer and Founder of Araminta Campbell talks to us about breathing life into traditional craftsmanship, the struggles of a small, sustainable fashion business and how Scotland is her source of inspiration.

in unique handwoven shawls, wraps and throws,
Araminta Campbell is a luxury textiles brand with
craftsmanship at its core. With a focus on sourcing sustainable
materials and weaving Scotland’s heritage into each bespoke piece,
founder Araminta Birse-Stewart is reviving Scottish artistry. Call
it field-to-soft-furnishing, if you will.

After studying embroidery and design at Manchester Metropolitan
University, Araminta interned with a major fashion house and
quickly realised that fast fashion’s mass-production hamster wheel
wasn’t for her. Instead, she turned her hands to an art that
required time, skill and exemplary craftsmanship: weaving.

Using her Aberdeenshire heritage and
‘s impressive landscape as inspiration, she set about
reviving the Scottish textile scene. Carefully sourcing
100-per-cent British alpaca wool, hunting down two Victorian looms
and calling upon small Scottish mills, she launched Araminta

With its meticulously handwoven, one-of-a-kind shawls, soft
Scottish throws that beg to be draped over a stately home’s chaise
longue and custom-designed tweeds and tartans – including those for
Scotland’s plushest hotel, The Fife Arms – Araminta Campbell is a
celebration of Scotland’s artisan heritage.

Here, Araminta Birse-Stewart, Founder and Creative Director of
Araminta Campbell, shares with us her design process, the
challenges she faces as a small, sustainable fashion business and
why Scotland is her ultimate source of inspiration.

Where are you from and how has your background shaped you?

I grew up on a small Scottish estate just outside of Aberdeen,
which instilled a love of nature from an early age. I’d spend hours
drawing in the fields or taking photographs as I explored. A
passionate supporter of the arts, my mother would take me on
gallery visits and our home was always full of inspiring pieces. My
father is a successful entrepreneur; after watching him it seemed
like a natural step for me to found my own creative business.

Describe Araminta Campbell’s aesthetic.

Elegant. Timeless. Uniquely Personal.

Tell us about your studio.

Our studio is based in the vibrant Edinburgh
neighbourhood of Leith, renowned for its cuisine and creative
energy. The weaving workshop, showroom and office overlook the
harbour from a former shipping building – it has beautiful period
features, with large paneled windows and high ceilings, making it
the perfect space for our two handweaving looms.

Talk us through your design process.

It is hard to pinpoint when a design idea begins to form, as so
much of my creative process happens subconsciously. A landscape or
detail in nature might capture my attention and will brew in the
back of my mind. Once I have that initial idea, I’ll develop and
refine it digitally before I prepare it for weaving. A huge element
of the design process is understanding how a design will translate
into a handwoven item or piece of cloth. There is so much thought
put into each step, including selection of materials and how an
item is woven, to ensure everything we design is of the highest

Where did your passion for design and textiles come from?

I had a couple of key influences as a teenager. I saw an
exhibition on Bill Gibb in the Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums,
and it was the first time I had seen someone take the things I
loved in nature and translate them into textiles. Then two amazing
textiles teachers at school showed me that textiles are an art form
– they inspired me to study textiles at university.

How did you start your brand?

In the beginning, it was just me weaving in a disused school
building by my parents’ house in Aberdeenshire. As I began
receiving more interest and commissions, I moved my studio to
Edinburgh and began building a small team of people who share my
passion for textiles. The brand has grown organically from there,
which has meant that relationships have stayed at the heart of what
we do. I want us to never lose that personal touch. Provenance is
also vital; starting small allowed us to develop sustainable
sources and remain deeply connected to every stage in the weaving

What inspires your designs?

Nature is my greatest source of inspiration. Scotland has such a
varied landscape and it is constantly changing with the weather and
the seasons. A design might spring from the trailing branches of a
willow tree or the delicate structure of a feather. I describe my
textiles as “woven paintings” – they are my way of capturing the

Tell us more about the weaving process…

Weaving is a magical process. I love the way you can take
individual strands of yarn and transform them into something
beautiful to be used and enjoyed. But weaving takes time, too. It
requires lots of skill, patience and attention to detail. The
preparation involved in producing a design often takes even longer
than weaving it. From selecting the right quality raw material to
assembling the warp and setting up the loom, there is so much to do
before you can begin constructing a design. For our handwoven
pieces, there is a lengthy hand-washing and finishing process that
transforms the final piece as well.

What about your two looms? How did you acquire them?

Both our looms were made by a gentleman named George Wood. He
was originally the engineer of a ship and then became a loom maker
in Leicester in the mid-20th century. His looms are works of art.
It’s estimated he managed to make around 300 in his lifetime, and
they’re all individually numbered – we have 151 and 297. Both were
previously owned by other female weavers who had been waiting many
years to sell them on to someone they trusted. Looms are incredibly
personal for a weaver, working on them every day, you know them
inside out and get very attached.

What is the process behind creating bespoke, handwoven

I love the challenge of really understanding a person or brand,
reading into their personality, style and story and translating
that into a unique design that speaks of them. Sometimes a client
wants to capture their life story or family history in a tartan
design; for others, it might be a particular aesthetic or

Using this as a starting point, I’ll come up with a series of
digital designs, working with my client to reach a final outcome.
Then I’ll prepare the design for weaving; sourcing the correct
yarns and translating the tartan into cloth, scarves, throws or
shawls as requested.

We have the option of producing these with our partner mills
around Scotland as well as weaving them by hand here in our
Edinburgh studio. For a handwoven tartan, we source the British
alpaca yarn ourselves and have it custom dyed in the Scottish
Borders. The handweaving process takes patience (with a throw
taking up to three weeks to make) but the results are truly

What challenges have you faced in becoming a sustainable,
luxury fashion brand and how have you overcome them?

Sustainability is an ongoing journey. Being small and nimble,
where possible, we have been able to be transparent and pursue
processes that have high ethical standards. For instance, the
handwoven products in our Signature collection can be traced back
to the field – we can sometimes name the alpaca a particular fleece
came from. However, being small can be a challenge; we don’t have
the volume or influence to make all of the changes we would

Tell us about your collaboration with one of Scotland’s best
hotels, The Fife Arms.

Interior designer Russell Sage and the team working on The Fife
Arms were looking for someone to create a custom tweed. They loved
our design process for their custom tweed and subsequently asked me
to design the tartan as well. From initially being a small element
in the refurbishment, both the tartan and tweed have been used
extensively throughout the hotel’s interiors, uniforms, shop and
even inside the Land Rovers.

Where are some of your favourite places to visit in

Many of my childhood holidays were spent on the Isle of Mull.
It’s so beautiful and the pace of life really does slow down here.
My husband proposed to me on Ardalanish Bay, so it’s a place that’s
very special to me. I also love returning to my grandparents’ house
at Strathconon in the Highlands.
It’s so different in every season; it’s amazing to see the colours
of the hills and forests change. A complete retreat from city

And what about your favourite hotels?

Unsurprisingly, I love staying at The
Fife Arms
, though not just because I know the team so well.
Every time I go, I discover a new favourite spot to relax in, and
it feels so hospitable despite being full of such amazing works of

The Summer Isles Hotel north of Ullapool is
also a firm favourite. It has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and
the location is so beautiful and remote.

Shop your own collection. What are three of your favourite
pieces and why?

The Signature Handwoven Fallen Leaves Blanket Wrap – a
statement piece that feels divine. Perfect for draping around you
while travelling or dressing up for a special event, I never fail
to feel elegant in one of these.

The Signature Handwoven Rose and Alpaca Birdwing Scarf – it
has a beautiful silky quality thanks to the rose fibre. A lovely
delicate design in soft natural colours, it finishes off a simple
outfit perfectly.

The Minta Willow Throw always makes my bed look
inviting. The alpaca wool is so soft to curl up with and adds a
warm, stylish accent to the room.

What’s next for Araminta Campbell?

Continuing to do what we have always done, but adapting for
these exceptional times. Many of our clients are less able to
travel, so we’ll bring trunk shows and virtual shopping experiences
to them, as well as maintaining personal connections online and,
where safe, face-to-face. We’ll also be unveiling a new handwoven
collection next year as well as some exciting custom designs.

Finally, what would a SUITCASE tartan look like?

I’d want it to reflect SUITCASE’s focus on thoughtful travel and
a clean contemporary aesthetic. I love the soft gold and deep blue
featured on your website and I’d combine this with timeless
neutrals, a spacious feel with a light airy check and a dash of
something surprising.

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