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Can the Prickly Thistle rebels make a mark in Inverness city centre?

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Prickly Thistle founder Ckare Campbell will be the first retail tenant for Union Court.
Prickly Thistle founder Ckare Campbell will be the first retail tenant for Union Court.

The first commercial tenant for a major city centre redevelopment project has been announced, nine months after building work was completed.

Prickly Thistle, a womenswear brand from the Black Isle, will be anchor retail tenant for Union Court, the former home of the Arnott’s department store in Union Street.

The company's story began with its founder Clare Campbell. Born in Inverness, with two younger brothers and her mother as the 'most inspirational light in her life'.

Sadly Clare's family experienced the loss of a loved one just before Christmas in 1998 as they they lost Paul, Clare's brother, at the age of 19. This was when the deep reality of how precious life is changed Clare and her family forever.

During the years that followed Clare married her childhood sweetheart Allan, became a mother to Paul and Charli and pursued a career as an accountant.

Raising a young family and supporting Highland-based businesses kept her busy for a while but in 2015, Clare found her inner rebel with a cause; a new purpose that would weave everything she ever cared about into a single passion.

Clare's rebel journey was clear to her despite the difficulties that she knew lay ahead.

She had to 'restore a future for powerful story telling tartan designs', and eventually 'return artisan tartan weaving skills and disruptive product collections back in the Highlands of Scotland'.

Clare Campbell of Prickly Thistle.
Clare Campbell of Prickly Thistle.

The Black Isle has become a permanent home for tartan and has inspired the businesses vision; a vision whereby the craft of creating tartan textiles for the Highlands has a future once again in its natural environment, continuing their promise of self sufficiency, escapism and rural regeneration.

On the Black Isle, they have ready and waiting an unused 100-year-old agricultural steading. Formerly a grain store, hay store, cattle byre and horse stable, this traditional U-shaped steading renovation is due to start in 2019 with completion planned for 2020.

On opening, the Prickly Thistle will be hosting the biggest 'Highland Fling' for all of their rebel crowdfunding backers and customers from around the world.

The Prickly Thistle was destined to become a brand of endurance.

They said: "For us, our endurance is defined by our actions, which are the decisions we make, the paths we follow and the rising again after a fall.

"As we are guided by our five threads of purpose for the contribution we wish to make to the Scottish textiles industry, we rely on these traits to ensure we can achieve the greatest accomplishment."

Prickly Thistle founder Ckare Campbell.
Prickly Thistle founder Ckare Campbell.

With the first rebels joining Prickly Thistle in the spring of 2018, when the first pop-up mill was established, they have only continued to grow in numbers. As imagined, setting up a new textiles mill from a standing start, with legacy looms that are rarely used anywhere in the world and with only a few experts within their reach, this was not for the faint-hearted.

They said: "Armed with our trusty overalls, ear protection and fuelled with coffee, there is nothing this team cannot do with tartan design in mind.

"Along with story telling tartans, designed, woven and made into product treasures, we love to share lots of other stories with each other.

"You will hear them all at our mill, from spooky tales to our favourite pizza topping of all time."

The firm has now signed a lease to take on one of the six new commercial units within Union Court, and is set to open before Christmas.

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