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Golden hopes for bunnet designer

THE designer behind the Tam O'Shanter hats and tartan scarves which captured the imagination of Usain Bolt and other Jamaican sprinters at the Commonwealth Games is looking at ways to ramp up manufacturing to keep pace with demand.

TARTAN FAN: Usain Bolt and his Jamaica team-mates wear tartan after success in the 4 x 100m relay at Hampden this summer.
TARTAN FAN: Usain Bolt and his Jamaica team-mates wear tartan after success in the 4 x 100m relay at Hampden this summer.

John Burleigh has been hand cutting his Burns Bunnets, which retail for around £50, since 2008 and steadily building up order numbers through word of mouth.

But he has seen a huge surge of interest from home and abroad since the garments were donned by Bolt, the most recognisable athlete in the world, during his lap of honour following the Jamaica squad's victory at the 4 x 100m sprint relay at Hampden.

Mr Burleigh said: "When I got the papers the following morning and saw Bolt with the bunnet on the front pages I just thought 'pinch me'."

Now Mr Burleigh, a former technical-studies schoolteacher, is looking into teaming up with the Inverclyde Community Development Trust to employ machinists, which would allow him to produce more of the clothing.

Meetings have already taken place with trust chief executive Jim Bristow and there has been an initial cutting trial at facilities in Port Glasgow.

The trust said: "Inverclyde Community Development Trust are currently exploring the possibility of employing one or two machinists to work at our business and training centre in Port Glasgow producing Burns Bunnets as part of our social enterprises.

"The trust's social-enterprise programme provides training and employment opportunities for people returning to work.

"We are very excited about developing this new project which we hope will tap into a rich tradition of textile manufacture here in Port Glasgow Industrial Estate which was, at one time, the home of Playtex, employing hundreds of local people."

Mr Burleigh admits he is keen to make sure production stays in Scotland.

And he wants to keep the bunnets positioned towards the quality end of the market.

He said: "The interest through the website has been much greater since the Commonwealth Games."

Alongside that, Mr Burleigh has been talking to Business Gateway about possibly accessing some marketing support - and there have been expressions of interest from retail businesses which stock Scottish-themed merchandise.

Some of those discussions may also see the bunnets stocked in Mr Burleigh's home town of Greenock as local firms try to capitalise on the growing numbers of cruise ships passing through the port.

Mr Burleigh said: "I want the bunnets to be made in Scotland.

"I would love them to be made in Greenock and create some employment here."

Mr Burleigh buys his materials for the bunnets from Scottish-based tartan-cloth suppliers such as Ingles Buchan, Lochcarron and House of Edgar.

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