The term was coined by British and American manufacturers to describe the fabric that was inspired by tartan – a unique cloth pattern that distinguishes one Scottish clan or geographical region from another. Rooted in Scottish culture as an emblem of clanship since the 16th century, no textile pattern has been as closely associated with the spirit of rebellion as tartan. In fact, it was once banned in Britain for over 40 years during the Scottish Rebellion in the 18th century.
So it’s no wonder that some of Britain’s most subversive fashion designers, from Dame Vivienne Westwood to the late Alexander McQueen, have been drawn to this symbolic pattern, identifiable by its coloured checks and intersecting lines.
Today, plaid has been rendered in many forms – from punk to posh styles. For Pre-Fall, Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior was inspired by Catherine Dior’s life as a fighter in the French Resistance during World War II. The rebellious spirit of Catherine, sister of Christian Dior, is embodied through punk-inspired schoolgirl attire emblazoned in plaid – but with a cool twist in the form of bike shorts and asymmetrical separates.
At Chanel, Virginie Viard channelled a posh society girl with matching tweed skirt suits in plaid. Meanwhile, the always flamboyant Roberto Cavalli had fun with playful patchwork shirt dresses and kilt-inspired skirts juxtaposing plaid with (you guessed it) animal prints.