The Herald, Features – Tuesday April 27, 2004

‘Like a breath of fresh air’
FASHION Look what the wind blew in: Hebridean inspiration with an urban edge. By Julia Davidson

pinstripe3NOW that spring is well and truly kicking in, it could be time to reassess your wardrobe. Yet with high street fashions currently more changeable than the weather, it’s worth seeking out the affordable and enduring originality provided by Edinburgh-based designer Ruth Morris. Inspired by the Scottish landscape and textile industry, Roobedo – Ruth’s lifelong nickname that now titles her business venture – even offers a made-to-measure service to guarantee that elusive perfect fit.

After graduating from the Scottish School of Textiles, Morris, 33, used her early career in retail to test the water with her own designs. “Creating clothes is basically a hobby that has developed into a business for me,” she says. “My first job was in a clothes shop, where several people approached me to ask if my own clothes, which I had made myself, were available in the store. This gave me the confidence I needed to set up my own company.”

The process took more than two years, but, in January 2000, Roobedo was born as a small label available online and via mail order, providing women’s clothing and accessories for a look which the creator summarises as “urban dressing with a blast of country air running through it”. It wasn’t long before the orders began flooding in.

Morris believes her success can be attributed to her no-fuss philosophy. “My designs infuse simple classics with a contemporary edge. Comfort is a top priority, so I use well-finished, high-quality natural fabrics that are soft and tactile, such as cord, denim, cotton, fine jersey and machine washable wool mixes. My aim is to create an elegant silhouette using long lines to emphasise the female form. The look is all about achieving understated elegance.”

This is seen clearly in her signature wide-leg slax and sophisticated suits, skirts and jackets – everyday items which can be dressed up or down to meet the occasion. They appeal to women of all ages, sizes and situations – Roobedo, it seems, has no “typical” clientele. “My target market is very broad – I cater for women from the ages of 20 to 70,”says Morris. “As I use a wide cross-section of fabrics, it means I have a broad price range, so my label is accessible to everyone. Often, though, there’s no set pattern to the clothes people go for, with older women choosing the denim slax and my younger customers buying clothes in Harris tweed.”

This Harris tweed has become Roobedo’s trademark, and is much more to Morris than simply another fabric. An appreciation of nature and Scotland’s remote landscapes, particularly the beaches of the Outer Hebrides, is the key influence in her designs. “As a child, I holidayed there regularly and fell in love with the wide-open spaces and the sheer tranquillity of it all. The peacefulness prompts an inner sense of well-being and confidence that I think is reflected in my clothes.

“People like the ethos and history that comes with Harris tweed. It’s all quite romantic – the toil of our ances- tors and the island traditions. I think it’s important that we don’t lose sight of that. It’s unique and a beautiful fabric to handle, and it also comes in a wide range of colours, patterned with chalkstripe and herringbone. I add a modern element to it with my own original cuts, and I use a super featherweight version that is nice and light. My customers love it,”she adds.

Yet tweed isn’t exactly a warm weather option, and it makes way in Roobedo’s new spring/summer collection for linen/cotton mixes and lightweight canvas. “The same straight lines and styles are there, but they’re in much lighter, floaty material that hangs really nicely,” Morris says. “Everything is inspired by the hues of early summer days – the clear, light blue skies, golden sand and the earthy green/brown shades of seaweed washed up on to the rocks.”

Morris is known for adding large, imposing and powerful images of the nature she so loves on to her designs, and is developing a new print of the Flag Iris, common in the Hebrides at this time of year. “I’m transposing them on to fabric using sprayed images as opposed to the screen prints I normally use, and I’m really happy with the results.” she says. This process gives more of a fuzzy edge. which is a bit different.”

Despite business growing steadily Morris is still very much hands-on. “I make pretty much everything in the collection myself I get so much satisfaction from it. I enjoy the personal approach which is why my bespoke service is so important to me About 50% of the clothes I sell are made to measure. Of course I sell clothes off the rail too, but mostly I find that once people have used the bespoke service, they continue to do so. There’s a massive difference in how you look and feel between clothes that almost fit and those made just for you.

Yet even with an international clientele and business booming at home. Morris is adamant that we aren’t about to witness major changes in the rapidly growing label. “I still want to keep the company small and manageable”

Will she be keeping one eye on the high street this season? “Although I love designers such as Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood l tend to do my own thing and not be influenced by others. I don t really follow mainstream fashion. I’m more interested in being completely original and creating styles that I know will endure.”

Roobedo is available at Concrete Wardrobe, Edinburgh, through mail order and online at
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