When you make the decision to purchase your very own kilt or give one as a present, it is something that has been thought about and maybe even been saved up for. Buying a kilt is can be a special occasion for a lot of people. It is traditionally made to measure, can be in your own family tartan, and is a completely hand sewn garment that will last a lifetime, maybe longer, as it can be passed down through the generations. A lot of thought and money goes into this special purchase.
You may even think of it as a ‘work of art‘ made by a highly skilled individual and yes, you would be correct.
However, there is a dark and ugly side to this business that you, as the customer, do not see. The highly skilled kiltmaker that spends between 16 – 20 working hours putting her/his heart and soul, sometimes blood lol, into your kilt is, in fact, working for less than the minimum wage.
How is this possible? I hear you ask, when you have just spent £500+ your kilt.
Is it the cloth? Well the simple answer to that is NO
The cloth costs between £90 – £190 depending on the tartan, to make matters worse you will be charged up to an extra £100 for the higher end of the cloth price on top of your kilt purchase.
A lot of retailers don’t actually realise the work that goes into a kilt, they seem to think it just magically appears. It’s not as if the kiltmaker has to take this 8 yard piece of tartan and condense it into a, let’s say, 34” waist, whilst making sure the tartan is correct both in the front and shaped into the back, of course each pleat doesn’t have to be calculated into individual sizes and delicately sewn into shape to those exact measures. Then we have the internal structure of the kilt, the work that is done to ensure the fit is perfect, just appears out of nowhere. Ok yes, I am being a wee bit sarcastic here 😉
There is also the attitude of some people. A retailer once said to me ‘why do you want to make kilts, you have brains’ mmmmmmmmm so this is what the business side of the industry seem to think of us kiltmakers. Little old ladies or wee lassies, without brains, apparently. Sitting sewing for a wee bit of pocket money while their husband brings home the real money.
So, what does the kiltmaker get paid? Well if they were getting minimum wage and it took 16 hours to make a kilt you could assume it would be £120, as this would be fair. Although with it being a skilled trade you could also assume they would be earning more, but let’s not go there just now. Here’s the bomb shell;
Kiltmakers are actually getting between £55 – £85 per kilt.
I’ll admit there are kiltmakers out there who have been making kilts for over 30 years and can make a kilt in a day without compromising the quality, but why should they still be earning just shy of minimum wage, surely, they should be charging a lot more with their years of experience.
It can be a lot easier today because we, as kiltmakers, can set up our own website or Facebook page and get our own kilt orders, whereas just 20 years ago we needed the retail outlets as much as they needed us. But why, when it is now the retailers who need us more are we still putting up with this?
We need to empower our kiltmakers, let them know how skilled they are, even I’m guilty of saying the phrase ‘I’m just a kiltmaker’
The closest comparison I can see is a Savile Row Tailor, would they work for less than minimum wage, would they say ‘I’m just a Tailor’ NO. So why do we?
What do we do? A revolution……. A kiltmakers march down the Royal Mile, now that would be a sight, any recommendations on what we could shout? 😉 We could go down the ‘ethically made’ label route, something we really shouldn’t have to see in the western world.
There are a lot of questions in this blog and I admit I do not have the answers. However, by letting you, the customer, know what is going on I hope that you will think about your kiltmaker the next time you are looking for a kilt, ask the retailer what they are paying, make sure they know what they’re talking about when it comes to actual making of the kilt and maybe with a little bit of education we can start the revolution.