Reshaping the Celtic Soul PT.4

In the final installment of a four-part series, Celtic Life International examines the state of the Celtic Arts today.


“It belonged to my mother, who inherited it from her own mother.”

Jess Hughson revs up the half-century old sewing machine, a family heirloom.

“It still works perfectly,” smiles the 19-year-old clothing designer from Glasgow, placing a thick spool of red thread onto the well-worn device. “I don’t need anything more than this, really – just my imagination.”

Hughson is busy preparing her latest designs for a fall fashion show in Ayr, just a few kilometers to the south.

“This is a black woolen pullover with hoodie,” she explains, “with red stitching on the pouch and red letter embroidery – perfect for autumn.”

The words Ah dinnae ken – Scottish for I don’t know – jump out from across the front.

“My mother doesn’t like it,” she states off-handedly. “But I know it will sell.”

Hughson has been designing individualized items since she was 11. Her exclusive sweaters, jackets, hats and scarves fetch top dollar in local boutiques.

“I get my inspiration from the internet,” she says, acknowledging the influence of Gustavo Cadile (Argentina), Veronique Branquinho (Belgium) and Yeojin Bae (South Korea).

“Styles and trends are now accessible to me, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” she declares. “And I can order materials from anywhere in the world. Global fashion is, literally, at my fingertips.”

The result is an array of astonishing, avant-garde attire.

“It’s certainly very different from what we are used to here in Scotland, and it will take some getting used to,” concedes the teenager, “but change always does.”


What is clear from speaking with Hughson, Renault, Douzat, Saitō, Raskolenko, Mariano and Gispert is that the Celtic identity – as reflected in its art – is a living, breathing force; a moving masterpiece.

“It’s almost beyond definition at this point,” says Joel Hanna. “At one time you could point to the bagpipes or Irish or highland dancing or a kilt and say that’s Celtic, but you can’t do that anymore – in a global village there are too many variables.”

“That said,” he continues, “there are some common denominators that Celtic people share; history, heritage and tradition to be sure, and a real pride in that past; a sense of community and of spirituality; the rhythms and melodies in our dance and music; and, I believe, as we see with the scope and scale of our Diaspora, a strong spirit of adventure.”

That desire to explore and evolve, he believes, is both exciting and ever-present.

“We see it today foremost in our arts, and it is our responsibility, as artists, to add our own voices to those who came before us by pushing our work, and ourselves, to places we have never been before.”