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Scotweb 1995-2019 - our story

Scotweb 1995-2019 - our story
By Nick Fiddes

CLAN Scotweb's origins go back to the very earliest days of the world wide web. Here is the story of how we became the company of today.

Where the idea started

No one knows how many sites exist on the web today. Well over a billion.

They numbered only in the hundreds in 1993 when I set up my first server at Edinburgh University. I was lecturing in Anthropology, and mine was probably the world's first environmental-awareness site.

By 1995, there was still no Google, eBay, or Amazon. But I'd a hunch this clever Internet thing might go somewhere. And the joy of growing piles of marking was waning.

One day, I attended a seminar about Scots abroad. It blew my mind.

Who knew there were ten times more Scots outside Scotland than inside? Or that half of all US presidents had Scottish blood? Or, curiously, that unlike the Irish, Italians, or Chinese we hadn't clustered, but spread out, quietly working hard and prospering? In fact Scots are one of North America's most economically successful immigrant groups.

So, thinks: if you live in the US Mid-West (for example) and are discovering your Scottish ancestry, where would you find your tartan? Hmmm... an idea was forming...

The early days

A friend and I asked one of Scotland' top kiltmakers to supply for us. They laughed - no one will buy a kilt without a personal fitting! But we launched Scotweb with them anyway: the first online Scottish store. In fact, it was probably the first bespoke clothing producer of any kind on the Internet (still a special-interest niche).

Soon we found partners also to supply whisky, bagpipes, jewellery, cashmere, and more. And we added lots of free content. It was a 'portal' in the jargon then.

Relaunching as a retailer

By 2001, dozens of copycat sites had sprung up. Some stole our words and images. Most supplied shoddy imported tourist tat. To stay ahead, we needed to do better still.

So we took direct control of the whole process. We started to design our own garments and other products to the standards we wanted, and found partners to manufacture them locally to the standards we'd want for items we'd wear or use ourselves.

Some of our favourite partners from our early years stayed on as partners to our new retailing operation. This let us guarantee exceptional service quality, and commit to authentic local production.


Our partnership with DC Dalgliesh

Then we stumbled across the DC Dalgliesh tartan weaving mill, who did have a web page (literally) though no computer of their own. Largely known only to specialist tailors and fabric enthusiasts, we instantly saw the immense value of this hidden gem to kilt buyers and other Scottish heritage lovers who wanted their own unique family tartan that the lagers mills producing in volume could not supply.

Now we could offer ANY tartan, made into any product, to the highest heritage standards. No one else on earth could supply anything like our range. Business boomed.

Bespoke fabrics and bespoke products

Soon we were DC Dalgliesh's largest customer, especially after adding the first generation version of our world-beating online Tartan Designer. The chance to create your own plaid then order bespoke garments is pretty special, it seems.

To complement this, we extended our ranges of bespoke products available, introducing the boast we make to this day of 'any product in any tartan'. It's true some items may require more than single items to meet that claim, but if your budget allows it's one we stand by.

Diversifying into weaving

When Mr Dalgliesh retireed as the mill's owner a decade later, we bought the business. DC Dalgliesh fabrics and reputation were unrivalled, and its Hall of Fame gave us confidence that the firm's reputation would carry it through the necessary rebuilding .

When we stepped in, the company badly needed investment, absorbing all our family savings and profits from the good years. And some of its products required to be updated to suit modern demands and expectations - though we were always clear, we would never lose the artisanal skills for which the company was renowned. This reinvention took a few years. But benefits are now emerging as we find new markets worldwide.

But most importantly, having DC Dalgliesh under the same ownership has let us do things no other company on earth can rival, let alone in Scotland. The mill's design and development capacities have allowed us to provide a one-stop service uniting the best of every major weaver and manufacturing firm in Scotland, with the personal service and rapid response capability of controlling the process of producing short order and rare specialist fabrics.

Personal developments

Oh, and along the way, my wife (and business partner) also produced two gorgeous girls - our second child confirmed the very day we agreed to rescue the mill. Looking back, we sometimes wonder how we got through all the inevitable stresses and occasional crises. Somehow, we juggled.

A brand new beginning: CLAN is born

So now, at last, we're getting back to our roots. Long term customers would notice only minor changes on Scotweb in its last few years while we had to focus all our efforts on rebuilding from the ground up one of the world's most ambitious online retailing operations.

But our services have evolved vastly since we began. And our mission has never changed. We remain committed to finding or creating the very best products and services representing tranditional Scottish culture and contemporary style, and bringing these affordably to anyone in the world to enjoy. We have THREE suppliers who started trading in the 1700s!

Today, with our own artisanal weaving mill to produce rare fabrics, and more specialist experience than anyone else, we can offer a vastly better range of goods than any of of our competitors. We still boast of making 'any product in any tartan' (though minimum volumes may apply). And no one can match our expertise in meeting challenging last minute deadlines.

The vast majority of our goods are produced locally in Scotland, either on our own premises or by 'best of breed' partners. When a choice of suppliers exists, we will always choose the most reliable and authentic above rather than save a few pennies on the price.

For example, all our kilts are custom made in Scotland by the nation's most experienced and expert kiltmakers. (We never sell the cheap and shoddy 'kilts' from overseas sweatshops that most of our copycat competitors supply.)

But of course it isn't just about the goods. The traditional standards of service has to match. And as a family company, we're committed to treating every customer like a member of the family. If you're in any doubt, just read our promises.

Whether you've been a Scotweb customer for decades, or this is the first time you've found us, welcome! Please just ask if we can help in any way. We usually pick up the phone in a few rings.

Welcome to CLAN. Watch this space: we've ten years of exciting ideas ready to roll out. We're back at the beginning.

Thanks for joining us on our journey!

Hamish 3 years ago at 17:58
Congratulations Nick and Adele. I clearly remember your very early days - but was it really TEN years ago? So many wonderful things have happened to Scotweb in that time and I wish I could have helped more but, sadly, Anno Domini has got at me in recent years (well, I am 80 this year) and I am not in a position to expand my Highland wear wardrobe further - 103 kilts is not bad going though!
Best wishes for your continuing success,
Hamish Bicknell, The Kilted Legend.