Truth be told, when I was younger, thoughts of tartan conjured up images of bagpipers or Highland dancers doing a …
Made in Nova ScotiaBy Jessica Eissfeldt | Sep 1, 2011
Tradition and roots influence Veronica MacIsaac’s innovative designs.
Tartan threads its way through not only Veronica MacIsaac’s heritage but also through her Celtic styles as a Halifax fashion designer who extensively uses tartan in her haute couture.
Starting at age four when she first picked up a needle, she’s never paused in her relentless pursuit of all things fashion. And she learned the basics of both sewing and clothing construction from her mom. “My mother is a professional seamstress, and she and my father own a kilt making company, MacIsaac Kiltmakers,” she says. “I never went to school for it. I always say I went to the school of Rosemary MacIsaac.”
Now on the faculty of the fashion design program at the Centre for Arts and Technology in Halifax, that dyed-in-the-wool understanding of sewing gives MacIsaac the drive and determination to succeed in the industry.
“She was able to stay focused and identify fantastic opportunities to launch her career, such as Atlantic Fashion Week,” says Angela Campagnoni, director for Atlantic Fashion Week. “Showcasing your designs at an event such as AFW is a fantastic place to strengthen your mark in the fashion and design world, as our event receives international coverage from some of the largest fashion media outlets in North America.”
And MacIsaac has made it to some of those outlets, including the Montreal runway and the prestigious “Dressed to the Kilt” Celtic fashion event in New York City.
“I think it does great things for the local fashion industry to have us represented on a world stage, especially New York City, with it being such a fashion mecca,” says MacIsaac, who went to the event as a contributing designer in April. “The province of Nova Scotia helped me a lot with getting to the show, and I don’t think I would’ve had such great support living somewhere else.”
That support is fitting, since the province’s heritage and culture have such a heavy influence on her designs. Though she incorporates tartan, and, for the most part, exclusively uses those fabrics, her designs are not, to use her own words, matronly.
“With my parents being kilt makers and me growing up as a Highland dancer, tartan has always been a part of my life,” she says. “There were always places to go that required me to wear tartan. However, the only tartan things available were incredibly traditional. So I decided to create a line of clothing that would allow you to wear your family tartan, but in a modern way.”
That unconventional twist makes her designs appeal to the young. “It was really important to show more younger people that being Scottish or Irish was really cool,” she says.
And to do that, she designs a whole range of clothing—dresses to blouses to evening gowns. The newest gown, however, is waiting to be released. “It takes Nova Scotia tartan and makes it less gift shop and more runway,” she says, “which I love.”
She even experimented with making a tartan bikini. She’s also been plying her needle to expand the line to include headbands, belts and hair bows, as well as home décor items like picture frames, table runners and place mats.
And it was a busy summer. MacIsaac did a fashion show at the Halifax Club for the International Gathering of the Clans and had a table at the Canadian Highland Dance Championships in Antigonish.
“I feel that Veronica has provided the Celtic community with a modern and inspiring interpretation of Celtic pride,” Campagnoni says. “I’m sure many in the Celtic community feel a strong sense of both heritage and luxury when they wear her creations.”
Campagnoni adds that a designer like MacIsaac modernizes Maritime traditions. “So often when we see images of our region they look very Sou’wester,” she says. “Veronica’s pieces help to showcase the East Coast in a whole new light. They remain true in who we are, but show that we are a progressive region with some very talented and fashionable individuals.”
To see MacIsaac’s latest collection, surf to www.veronicamacisaac.com.