Highlandcore! Why kilts are the style set’s autumn obsession — and how to wear one

 (ES)
(ES)

Hardly a London Fashion Week show passed this month without three (or more) kilt-clad attendees sat front row.

These were not any old tartans lying around from old school days, though. The chic set get their pleated skirt fix from London-based label Chopova Lowena.

Now, as the show circuit has moved to Paris, floods of street style pictures continue to roll in, and the standouts?

Still the leather-belted, carabiner-clipped, panelled skirts from the Bulgarian-British design duo. Their designs are eye-catching and have made the humble kilt a crucial investment item this winter. Welcome to the dawn of, ahem, Highlandcore…

Yu Masui (Imaxtree / Valentina Valdinoci)
Yu Masui (Imaxtree / Valentina Valdinoci)

It has been five years since Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena-Irons first played with prototypes for their It-skirt while studying together at Central Saint Martins. What do they think has enticed the cult following, now counting Madonna and Olivia Rodrigo? “The skirts are just joyous, full of fabric and fun to wear,” says Chopova.

Their starting point was not the kilt’s late 16th-century beginnings, when a wrapped skirt became an identifiable part of Scottish costume, though. “We were actually relooking at suspended rock-climbing harnesses and Bulgarian folklore,” she says. “By using vintage folkloric textiles, each one is unique.”

Chopova Lowena SS23 (Chopova Lowena)
Chopova Lowena SS23 (Chopova Lowena)

They certainly have the style insiders’ vote. Mahoro Seward, fashion features editor at i-D magazine, swapped writing for the runway and walked Chopova Lowena’s debut LFW catwalk this month. “The kilts lift any outfit with a pop of eccentricity,” he says. “Their clothes look good on such a wide variety of bodies — A$AP Rocky is a natural fit for the brand, as is Dua Lipa. There are few (if any) other independent brands that I’d say the same about.”

Seward also has some reassurance for first timers: “Despite what you may think at first, they’re so easy to style.” I’ve spotted super-short and all-out-maxi kilts on the streets, while a handful of boys and girls opt to layer a punky mini atop baggy jeans and cowboy boots.

Much of their joy is in the androgyny. “It is the ultimate masculine and feminine garment,” says Scottish designer Charles Jeffrey, whose Loverboy label counts kilts as a staple. “A great one is made of the best, most beautiful tartan from Scotland, with buttery, gorgeous pleats.” Boys, a word of warning, though — Jeffrey first wore one at 17 for his ceilidh, but ran into spot of bother navigating the urinals. “I was covered,” he says.

 (Imaxtree / Valentina Valdinoci)
(Imaxtree / Valentina Valdinoci)

Italian label Roberto Cavalli, better known for ostentatious leopard prints, also championed their all-gender appeal for its pre-fall 22 collection, sprinkled with Scottish charm. When picking your own, look to the top designers for inspiration but don’t be afraid of classic tartans off the high street and traditional Scottish shops. Burberry does a statement version in its nova check, Sandro’s six-buckle style is a tempting office choice, while Sister Jane’s men’s midi kilt in green and cream is a charmer. Winter 2022? Embrace your kilty pleasures.

Here is our pick of the best plaid:

Chopova Lowena

 (Chopova Lowena)
(Chopova Lowena)

Chopova Lowena, £805, matchesfashion.com

Lochcarron of Scotland

 (Lochcarron of Scotland)
(Lochcarron of Scotland)

Lochcarron of Scotland, £235, lochcarron.co.uk

Burberry

 (Burberry)
(Burberry)

Burberry, £750, burberry.com

Sandro

 (Sandro)
(Sandro)

Sandro, £109, selfridges.com

Charles Jeffrey

 (Charles Jeffrey)
(Charles Jeffrey)

Charles Jeffrey, £385, brownsfashion.com

Sister Jane

 (Sister Jane)
(Sister Jane)

Sister Jane, £79, sisterjane.com

Scroll the gallery above for the best kilts seen on the streets this fashion month