Dunmore Scotland is a vibrant new fashion label producing striking bags and accessories. Inspired by Scotland, each collection is crafted to guarantee outstanding quality of craftsmanship. Recently, we spoke with the company’s Managing Director Diane Ness.
What is your own background?
I am born and bred in Edinburgh and have worked in the city for most of my life, working in a variety of businesses and running my own companies.
What is the company’s history and mandate?
Dunmore Scotland originates from a story in a newspaper about the closure of another textile mill in the Scottish Borders, which is where I now live. Scotland has a long history of textile manufacture and I was frustrated that all the skills were being lost. I was looking for a business opportunity and decided to do something that would utilise these skills and manufacturing businesses, hopefully helping to maintain them for future generations. Our mandate is to ‘use local’ – we buy our Harris Tweed from the larger companies as well as individual weavers both based in the Outer Hebrides and our Tartans come from two businesses, one in Highland Perthshire and one in the Scottish Borders. We use two small family businesses in the central belt of Scotland to manufacture the designs and everything else is done from our base in the Scottish Borders. When we say made in Scotland, we really mean it!
How has it evolved over time?
When we started, we had one design, in two different options. We now have nearly 20 handbag and satchel designs, plus a range of accessories such as scarves and travel accessories.
What are your roles and responsibilities there?
I am the Managing Director of Dunmore Scotland and I am responsible for the day to day running of the business, from the initial design of the bag all the way through to packaging them up for shipping. If you get in touch with us it will usually be myself you speak to. I have a small team that helps with marketing side, including design, photography, and social media.
What are the challenges of the job?
There are so many beautiful Tartans that I want to use, but I have to ration myself. Equally, so many of the Harris Tweed patterns that are produced are such beautiful colours and patterns, I want to use them all! We generally only make a small run of each bag in a specific Tartan or Tweed, maybe six in each, so I keep an ever-lengthening list of which ones I want to use next.
What are the rewards?
It is absolutely wonderful to send another bag from here in the Scottish Borders around the world and realise that one of my designs is out and about on someone’s arm in New York, Los Angeles or Melbourne. Nothing makes me happier than when customers send me pictures of themselves out and about with their bags. But the very best thing is when I spot one of our products with my own eyes on someone’s arm when I’m out and about. That makes me very proud.
What are your core products?
Our core products are handbags, satchels and accessories in Harris Tweed and Tartan. These range from small bucket totes to large shoulder totes, large unisex satchels and ladies cross body satchels. Our ‘signature’ bag is the Strathearn Saddlebag and this is also available as a bespoke version, made in any tartan you wish, subject to availability at our tartan suppliers. We also have a small range of classic leather designs.
How do you differ from the competition?
For us, it is all about attention to detail. We work with small manufacturers with generations of experience, and we believe that shows in the quality of our product. For example – we carefully match the leather used on our bags to the Tartans or Harris Tweed – it might be cheaper if we could just put black leather handles on them all but we don’t, we have green, navy, brown and black leather and we make an individual decision based on the specific colours on the body of the bag. On our leather bags, we use coloured suede to line them – sometimes matching the exterior and sometimes we put in a bright contrast colour. Being a small business making small batches lets us have that flexibility and also makes the bags unique.
How do you reach your potential clients?
We are exclusively online, and our full range is available on our website. We ship worldwide and use express couriers for overseas, which means that deliveries for the US, often arrive there before a UK delivery shipped on the same day.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Scottish marketplace?
I think Scotland has amazing products that we are proud to share with the world and we have a great reputation for that. Clearly the biggest challenge at the moment is Brexit and understanding the impact that has on trading with the EU.
What can be done to improve that?
We can only hope that those responsible in our government for Overseas Development and Trade advertise and sell all that Scotland has to offer.
What are your future plans for the business?
Our future plans are more designs to more customers. We have some new designs in “test mode” at the moment, with test bags out being used by the team so look out for a launch on that. We’re also in the process of picking the next collection of Tartans and Harris Tweed for this year’s release of our existing designs. My goal is to see even more Dunmore Scotland bags on people’s arms around the world!