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Published: 17 August 2019

By Andy Ross

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That Which We Are

A few years ago I started a new label to make accessories which I wanted to wear.

Men's fashion is ok but it seems to me that there is frequently more choice for women. I often buy scarves that are designed for women, simply because they are great patterns or because the colours are so good. Men's scarves are not bold enough or colourful enough for me. 

On a trip to Venice a few years back I bought a lovely scarf with birds and plants printed on it and it got me thinking that perhaps there was something I could do to make scarves and accessories which I would want to wear. A lot of conversations followed and eventually, with the help of my family, and a knitting friend, Penelope, I set up my label That Which We Are. 

For those of you who are of an artistic poetic bent you may know the poem Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The last stanza of the poem is about hope and courage to explore and do new things, even in the face of old age and adversity. And it was this idea that gave me the name which comes from the lines below. 

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Growing up in '70s Africa, we were fed a constant diet of romantic and melodramatic ideals based very much on British explorers and adventurers. These tales of derring-do and discovery made me want to explore different ways of capturing that spirit. So, one day in an idle moment, I took some scanned pictures and manipulated them to create a composite image. When the image was printed onto fabric it came out much better than I expected and my friend, Maggie, made the run into scarves which I wore and which I also gave away as gifts. After people had admired them and after a chat with Penelope, I decided to go into small-scale production.

My scarves are printed on Italian wool at Glasgow School of Art and are hand-finished in the studio in Yell with a cotton backing. They take ages to produce but given that it has taken three years since the first idea, what is another few weeks?

As part of the project what I would like to do is donate part of the profit to my friends in Zimbabwe who perform, sing and dance to raise awareness of wildlife conservation. £10 from each scarf will go to that fund to support Ingonyama. 

You can see the two scarves on Etsy here. More on the way in a few months time...