Clare Campbell CA: A talent for tartan

By Alec Mackenzie, CA Today

2 June 2017

From accountancy to design, Clare Campbell CA has her sights set on taking Scotland’s iconic textile to the top.

If you ever needed proof that CAs aren’t all cut from the same cloth Clare Campbell, founder of Prickly Thistle, might be the perfect example. 

The 38-year-old entrepreneur had already enjoyed a successful career in accountancy before embarking on a venture that’s aiming to redefine and reinvigorate Scotland’s tartan and textile heritage. And she’s sharing her story at the ICAS Conference this September.

Giving new life to a 200-year-old tradition

Established in 2015 and operating from the Highlands on the Black Isle just north of Inverness, Clare’s company gives its clients the opportunity to weave their own piece of history through bespoke tartan designs and products.

The key idea behind Prickly Thistle’s studio is the integration of every step of the design and manufacturing process under one roof, ensuring the client has complete creative freedom over the look and application of their tartan. Finished fabrics can be tailored to any use by Clare’s artisan partners.

From expert kilt makers, fashion designers, furniture makers and much more. Each of her commissions is therefore unique, carries the “made in Scotland” label and, crucially, is officially recognised as an authentic tartan design and recorded in the Scottish Register of Tartans.  

Describing her inspiration for the business, Clare says: “Scotland has had more than 200 years in the making of this wonderful story, of this cloth that empowers and unites people. What it means to a sense of identity and legacy has become part of my interpretation of tartan.

“I think we’ve undervalued the quality and the luxury that is a personally designed textile. I wanted to create a premium brand for Scotland that was on a par with the famous European designers, such as Hermes, LVMH and Chanel.

“When you think about how successful they are today, an authentic story plays a massive part and I thought this sector was ripe for a new story with important links to the past.”

What’s next for Prickly Thistle?

Looking ahead to the future of Prickly Thistle, Clare says: “The focus for the next 12 months is the execution of a crowdfunding campaign in September to build a mill in the Highlands.

“Johnstons of Elgin and Knockando Mill are the furthest north commercial mills on the mainland, then you have Harris Tweed obviously on the west coast, but in terms of a production mill in the Highlands we have none at present. Most mills in Scotland have adopted a volume-based business model. This Highland mill will be quite different and will be set up to serve a new international market.

“Building the mill is fundamental to scaling the business, having that innovation reach and operational control. I need to experiment and I need an environment to take clients to that enhances their experience, builds the brand and adds provenance to what I do. I’m proud to be based in the Highlands.”

ICAS Conference 2017

Clare will be speaking at The ICAS Conference 2017 in association with Investec Wealth & Investment. The conference brings together some of the most insightful leaders in business, politics and the media and brings you together with fellow professionals who are all trying to solve the same conundrum. This is a day which will arm you with what you need to know to successfully conquer the next 12 months in business.


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