Ruffling fashion feathers: Gray’s students donate outfit inspired by North-east designer to Aberdeen Art Gallery

Two students from Robert Gordon University's Gray's School of Art have been selected to donate their owl-print skirt and waistcoat, inspired by the work of the late New Pitsligo-born fashion designer Bill Gibb, to the collection at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Kate Gillespie, Fiona McLeod and Eilidh NeilsonThe outfit, entitled ‘Nocturnal', comprises a full-length skirt and waistcoat, and was a joint effort by third-year Fashion Design student Fiona McLeod (20) from Newport-on-Tay, and third-year Textiles and Surface Design student Eilidh Neilson (19) from Turriff.

The students created the garment as part of a course project, where over 42 students from Gray's were invited to explore the Bill Gibb archive as a source of inspiration. Textiles and fashion design students then worked together to develop and produce fabric samples, sketches and designs to feature in an exhibition along with Gibb's own creations, which took place at Provost Skene's House in June of this year.

Eilidh and Fiona's ‘Spring/Summer' design emulates Gibb's use of print and plush fabrics, and is made from silk organza with an owl-themed pattern which has been digitally printed on to the material.

The two girls picked aspects of Gibb's work they both admired and added their own contemporary twist. Eilidh researched his use of print and different fabrics whilst Fiona explored his most popular styles by studying his sketches.

Fiona explains: "We decided to stick to a Scottish animal theme which reflects Bill Gibb's heritage, and also ties in with his signature motif, the bumblebee. Eilidh experimented with stags, butterflies and dragonflies, but then decided on owls, as the pattern looked really unique on fabric."

Fiona drew over 30 different garments before the duo decided on the full-length skirt and waistcoat complete with silk sleeves.

Fiona continues: "Eilidh and I established a really good working relationship during the project. We would constantly ask each other's opinion and spent a lot of time evaluating our joint work. It took a lot of time, care and attention to detail."

Eilidh adds: "Donating our piece is a great opportunity for our designs to be showcased to the public along with Bill Gibb's other work as well as a great CV boost; it also means the garment will be well looked after by the Gallery. We are both very proud that it will be part of this collection - especially as he was such an inspiration to us both."

Kate Gillespie, Curator at Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, approached the students with the opportunity to donate the garment and was delighted when they accepted.

She says: "The donation of this outfit represents the success of the project-based exhibition. We chose ‘Nocturnal' to be part of the permanent collection as we felt that Fiona and Eilidh had really captured Gibb's unique style and sense of humour in their design and combined these elements with a contemporary slant.

"This project not only highlights the continuing relevance of Gibb's work in the fashion world but also the excellent working relationship between the Gallery and Gray's School of Art."

The students' design will now complement the Bill Gibb collection, a nationally significant archive of over 100 garments, complemented by an archive of 2460 fashion sketches, working drawings and notes by the famous North-east born designer.

Laura Hardingham, Fashion Applications Supervisor at the University, comments:

"After the successful exhibition at Provost Skene's House, we were very honoured to be asked for one of the garments from this project to be donated to the collection. We herald the collection at Aberdeen Art Gallery with the upmost prestige and to have our students work included in this is very satisfying for Gray's.

"The benefits from working on live projects, exhibitions and exposing students to the work and opinions of those in industry are an important part of the learning experience. This process encouraged a close partnership between the students, reflecting the working relationships that they will encounter in their future careers."

There will be an opportunity to interview and photograph students Eilidh Neilson and Fiona McLeod handing their creation over to Kate Gillespie, Curator of Museums and Galleries, in the Centre Court at Aberdeen Art Gallery tomorrow (Friday 19 November) at 11am. Sarah Grieve will meet members of the media at reception.

Notes to editors:

  • The exhibition, ‘Bee Inspired: The Influence of Bill Gibb', ran from 26 June - 28 August 2010 at Provost Skene's House and showcased fabric and garments designed by fashion and textile students from Gray's School of Art alongside Gibb's own creations.
  • The influential designer Bill Gibb was the golden boy of British fashion from the late 1960s, until his untimely death in 1988 at the age of 45.
  • Born in 1943 on a rural Aberdeenshire farm near New Pitsligo, his creative talent was apparent from an early age. At 19 he moved to London to study fashion at St Martins College of Art where he graduated top of his class. Subsequently he was offered a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art, London.
  • Bill left the Royal College before completing his degree to set up his own business. He was to become one of the foremost fashion designers of his generation, dressing celebrities such as Twiggy, Bianca Jagger and Elizabeth Taylor with his romantic layers of multi-patterned fabrics.


Issued by:

Sarah Grieve
Communications Officer

Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262206