THE DRESS code is uncompromising: “Collared shirts for men. No trainers, work boots, baggy clothes, hats or men wearing chained jewellery. Dress jeans only. ”
That would usually rule out everyone up to and including a Village People tribute band. But this week the Copacabana Club in New York relaxed its requirements and allowed some more exotic creations in to enjoy its tropical -themed decor as part of Tartan Week.
The Dressed To Kilt fashion show, which last year saw the simultaneous beginning and end of Jack McConnell’s modelling career, has brought the work of another string of Scottish designers to the attention of the bulging wallets of New York’s glitterati.
It has also broken the hearts of women who should know better by confirming Darius Danesh is closer than ever to stunning Species star Natasha Henstridge, whom he met at the Mondrian hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles a year ago.
He invited her along to the Scottish showcase event, where he was modelling kilts and jumpers for US internet store Thistle and Broom with his younger brother, Aria, 21. She must be smitten, appearing on the catwalk with a revealing kilt and button-top outfit by young Edinburgh designer Joey D. “She didn’t just look fabulous, she was stunning,” said Dressed To Kilt organiser Geoff Scott Carroll.
He must be pleased there were no obvious repeats of the First Minister’s faux pas, although Micheline Connery – husband, Sir Sean, was absent – raised more than one eyebrow (I doubt she can raise her own) by wearing a sporran with black trousers, a bleach-white mini-jacket and tartan tie. Perhaps one of the city’s notorious power cuts had caused panic in the dressing room? Luckily she was rescued by catwalk dancing partner, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen star Tony Curran, whose own sporran appeared to contain a packet of 20 Malboro Lights. What would health minister Andy Kerr say?
One of the few participants to emerge with dignity fully intact was blue-eyed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler, the 35-year-old Glaswegian star of Lara Croft and Phantom of the Opera who brandished a claymore in a Belinda Robertson pink cashmere jumper and leathery kilt.
Actor Kyle MacLachlan joined the fun, and Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell sported outfits by students at Heriot-Watt University while making an entrance with husband Charles Askegard – a dancer with the New York Ballet. Tip-toed balletic grace was less in evidence when Scotland Today newsreader Sarah Heaney crashed onto the catwalk in a tartan top and black miniskirt, given an emergency helping hand by indefatigable Glasgow socialite Kelly Cooper Barr who had herself come dressed as if ready to participate in a Historic Scotland battle re-enactment.
CNN mogul Ted Turner appeared in a pair of wellies – a precaution understandable to anyone who has been into the gents at a club after midnight – and matching jacket and cap supplied by Scottish outdoor clothing firm Hunter, which is expanding into the US market for the first time. Turner’s girlfriend, Rebekah Stewart (who arrived in an elegant evening ballgown by Lochcarron affiliate designer Michael Kay) is of Scottish descent and runs a holiday ranch called Brigadoon Lodge, described as “Georgia’s premier fly -fishing retreat” – final proof that the Americans who attend Tartan Week are considerably more eccentric (and probably more interesting) than their Scottish visitors.
Former footballer Mo Johnstone and Scotland rugby legend Scott Hastings represented the Tartan Army, the latter showing off Lochcarron’s official tartan for this summer’s British Lions tour of New Zealand.
Young violinist Laura McGhee from Angus fiddled her way down the catwalk while Edinburgh-born KT Tunstall – also kilted – later provided music as the audience enjoyed Johnnie Walker (and Irn Bru to take the taste away).
Is this non-stop kilt parade really the best showcase for Scottish culture abroad?
“This is where the young people, the New York society figures are,” insists Carroll, a wealthy investor whose Upper East Side apartment became an unofficial celebrity fitting room in the run-up to the event. “They don’t go to bagpipe parades but they know that Dressed To Kilt is a hot ticket because it represents a youthful and confident Scotland. The designers that are involved in the show are at the forefront of Scottish business in the United States and beyond, so the value of events like this is incredible.
“Take Joey D. It’s his first time at Dressed to Kilt and he gets Natasha Henstridge modelling his outfits. He’s a designer from Edinburgh. You can’t say that what is being represented here is somehow not relevant to what is happening in Scotland.”
He claims the event gave Tartan Week a more contemporary feel. “You can stick with all the haggis and heather if you want but there is a market beyond that which understands that Scotland is not just about what has been preserved but also what is new and innovative.
“Scotland has a strong reputation here in the US as a country that exports its brains. Here is proof that it can produce beauty as well.”