Front Lounge

Dundee Graduates Celebrate ‘Life-Changing’ Qualification

A group of 17 learners, from a 15-year-old Dundee school refuser to a South African entrepreneur, have graduated with a groundbreaking clothes-making qualification.

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Kindred Clothing graduates! Credit – Kitty Tang.

Led by Dundee charity Front Lounge, the SQA-accredited Kindred Clothing Award (Garment Production) qualification was designed by a group of young mums in 2021 and is delivered by businesses within the Clothes Making Learning Partnership (CMLP). They take learners through the key stages of the garment production process, from setting up and using a sewing machine to mood boards, pattern making and garment construction. Learners also gain practical fashion photography skills and techniques to present themselves, their stories and their clothes.

Learners, spread over three cohorts, created a range of garments during the course, from tote bags and lounge sets to show-stopping dresses.  The new batch of 17 graduates brings the total number to 34, including the first cohort who achieved the qualification online due to Covid-19 restrictions. Front Lounge hopes to run 10 new cohorts by the end of 2024.

The ceremony also saw one of the graduates presented with ‘The Tailor Trade Award 2022-23’, presented by Euan Williamson, Boxmaster to The Tailor Trade of The Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee.  The inaugural award was presented to the most outstanding Kindred Clothing learner, Courtney Keddie (25) from Dundee, who received a certificate and £350.

Mother of two Courtney started Kindred Clothing in September 2022, having previously been housebound due to profound anxiety.

Courtney Keddie

Courtney Keddie receiving her award from Euan Williamson of The Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee. Credit – Kitty Tang.

She said, “I am beyond grateful and honoured. It has given my self-confidence such a boost and motivates me to keep up all the hard work.  After only recently discovering a love and passion for fashion and textiles through Kindred Clothing, this has inspired me to continue on this path to better my knowledge and skills. To be given this opportunity is a huge step for my future and has solidified my goals within the creative industry.”

The Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee was formed in the mid-16th century to oversee the individual trades, including Tailors, helping them control their funds, creating a strong bargaining group and providing funds for charitable causes.  Today, the central focus of the organisation is to responsibly manage its charitable fund to support worthy local causes, educational bursaries and to promote the success and achievements of the City of Dundee.

Mr Williamson said, “The ethos of The Nine Incorporated Trades is to support worthy local causes, educational bursaries and to promote the success and achievements of the City of Dundee.

“With Tailors one of the trades we were established to support, we are heartened by the Kindred Clothing project which is not only providing opportunities to young people but also reinvigorating what was one of the city’s most buoyant industries. In 1946, Reform Street was the Saville Row of Dundee and home to over a dozen tailors of some 44 in the city. It’s great to see that clothes continue to be manufactured in the city, from scratch, with local talent, sparking employment and training opportunities for the next generation.   We were delighted to present The Tailor Trade Award to Courtney in recognition of her skills, application, knowledge, attitude and perseverance over personal life difficulties.”

Meanwhile, Lesley Riddoch, one of Scotland’s best-known commentators and broadcasters also gave a speech to the new graduates. Fife-based Lesley is also an author and filmmaker and was heavily involved in the buyout of Eigg by the local community who, in forming the Isle of Eigg Trust, bought the island in 1997. Through ongoing support, Lesley describes the buyout as ‘a model self-reliant community and inspiration for Scotland’.

She said, “As part of my work with the people of Eigg, I know all too well the value and impact of community and community empowerment. Through small steps, huge progress can be made.

“I admire people who can pitch a skill and tailor it to reach people so they get hooked, to see that they can do something, despite how scary it might look at the start. Front Lounge and their growing pool of Kindred Clothing graduates seem to have achieved that.”

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Some of the guests and speakers at the Kindred Clothing graduation, including Lesley Riddoch. Credit – Kitty Tang.

Lesley, who started sewing at the age of eight added, “I fell into sewing at a young age. As I became a teenager, there was virtually nothing out there for a young girl stretching almost six feet tall! My self-esteem was low enough and not having clothes to fit didn’t exactly help. I was extending practically every pair of trousers to cover my boots and made dresses too, even curtains to fit my huge Glasgow tenement windows. I also loved the satisfaction of working and taking care of the sewing machine. Machines were so often a boys’ thing so I always felt so smug when I could fix the tension or the bobbin. I also used to lose myself in the Glasgow fabric shops growing up, going through the mountains of fabric, it was total escapism. It’s wonderful to see this next generation feeling that way about sewing today and, more importantly, growing in confidence and landing training and jobs at the end of it.”

One of those graduating at Mains Castle, Dundee was Topaz Walker, who joined Kindred Clothing fresh from industry.

A former pupil at Strathallan School in Perthshire, Dundee-born Topaz (19), who is dyslexic, left school with ‘no real plan’. Fast forward a few months when Topaz spotted an advert for a part-time apprenticeship at Dundee fashion house Isolated Heroes.  She has also completed an apprenticeship with Dundee’s Dreamland.

Topaz said, “I have learnt so much and gained a lot of business experience. I have now received an offer from Robert Gordon University for the four-year Fashion and Textile degree. I am very excited for my next step and ready to take on anything but I don’t think I would have been successful without Kindred Clothing. To all the people who supported me throughout this course, I’ve enjoyed every moment and can’t thank everyone enough who got me where I am today.”

Also completing the qualification online was Terri Groenewald (28), an emerging entrepreneur from Cape Town, South Africa, who will receive her graduation certificate by post.

Terri said, “My experience with Kindred Clothing was exactly what I needed in the creative journey I am on. I gained valuable knowledge in constructing a garment, reading and understanding a pattern, creating my own patterns and then looking at the actual value of a garment. There was also the creative component of sketching, creating mood boards and seeing the garments come to life.  Although I was online only, I felt as though I was part of the classroom. I’m currently working on a summer range so that I can sell my product at markets where I’m selling hair accessories and introducing summer dresses and skirts.”

Chika Inatimi, Project Leader, Front Lounge added, “To each and every graduate, they leave with so much more than a certificate.  We work with communities that are constantly coming up against barriers. To have completed this course, they had to demonstrate what was, for most, a brand new skill, requiring perseverance and patience. Given that many also struggle with their mental health, they showed tremendous engagement, not just with the minutia of the course but with the rest of the group. They started out as strangers but graduate as friends, with a new motivation and enthusiasm for life and what’s ahead.”

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