Since opening their store in April 2009, Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers (GNK) have been dedicated to designing and manufacturing quality kilts that boast craftsmanship and heritage. After noticing a decline in quality kilts in the market, founder, Gordon Nicholson, set out to achieve a new dream – provide a course for students who wish to learn how to make exceptional kilts. This dream saw the establishment of the Edinburgh Kiltmakers Academy.

Since its inception, the Academy has introduced an SQA approved qualification. This intensive course shows students how to product exceptional garments, whilst also providing them with education on the heritage behind traditional kilt making. One of the Academy’s success stories is Emma, who after completing the apprenticeship course has carved a successful career at the Academy.

Emma has always had a passion for working with her hands and uprooted from the Highlands to Edinburgh to complete a HND in Costume Design. Upon finishing the course, Emma began full time employment in hospitality, attending evening college classes to add to her skillset with qualifications in embellishment, creative embroidery and soft furnishings.

Emma desired to return to her practical roots, discovering the Edinburgh Kiltmakers Academy online. After attending an open evening, she began a one year intensive apprentice to learn the trade of kilt making. Within the course Emma learned how to make a wide range of kilts including kilts for women and children, A-line skirts and gent’s kilts; including various weights of tartan – 13oz medium weight, 16oz heavyweight and 21oz military weight. Emma’s training also included making tweed and plain kilts, completion of kilt alterations and remaking a kilt.

As part of her ongoing learning, Emma obtained valuable experience in all aspects of the business, from dealing with customers to provide impeccable customer service, liaising with suppliers, dealing with the companies online enquiries and learning the day-to-day duties of running a busy shop.

Emma is now a fully qualified kiltmaker and since completing the course has made over 100 kilts – and altered just as many. On her contribution to the team, Gordon Nicolson said: “The standard of her work is extremely high and has gained a huge amount of experience and respect. She has made herself a valuable member of my team and plans to improve and develop the EKA further.”

Emma has moved her way up the ranks since becoming fully qualified and now leads all three classes at the Edinburgh Kiltmakers Academy as the Course Leader. Although responsible for the teaching aspect, Emma herself still believes in the importance of learning, discussing techniques with other kiltmakers to integrate new knowledge into the courses. This ensures that each student can find a technique that suits them and also – and most important – enables every student to learn how to produce kilts to the SQA approved standard.