Last autumn, Scottish model Chris Millington, photographer Stew Bryden and I sat in a bar in Glasgow, where we shared our passion and dreams for the creative potential in this land. A lot has happened since then...
Chris, you travelled to New York City for the first time in April this year, what were the highlights, and did the experience alter your perception of Scotland?
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I think that my initial venture to New York was just one giant culmination of brilliant events, to be honest. I got there initially through an incredibly spontaneous conversation between myself and Genuine Scotland that completely took me by surprise. Getting there in itself was amazing, seeing the city outline from the distance, the big city lights, all of it was genuinely breathtaking.
The days that followed were spent with some dear friends of mine and I met some people from across the pond that I'd connected with via social media, which just created such a brilliant atmosphere and experience for me. Spending time with The La Fontaines on their first adventure in the US was amazing, I love those boys and everything they are doing right now, watching them take to the stages of New York with not a single hint of anything less than sheer class was truly inspiring.
I was fortunate enough to be there during "Tartan Week" which basically meant that the city was a giant version of Edinburgh, to put it simply! There were kilts everywhere, Scots had travelled from far and wide to enjoy the events, all in the name of Scottish pride. Those days changed my perception of Scotland forever. A nation so humble, unassuming and often regarded as the underdog, making waves across the ocean that I never imagined possible, it was incredible.
Now, having had more time to reflect during your adventures across North America, where do you gauge Scottish creative talent from a global perspective?
I've come to realise that talent, gifts, visions and creativity can come from any corner of the earth and those who are often overlooked tend to be those from cities outside the usual areas of influence.
Scotland has some immense talent in the creative industry, with our fashion and music sectors absolutely booming at the moment. I have found that we are just as capable as anyone else; our location holds no bearing on the amazing talents that Scotland has to offer. It is vitally important that we draw attention to Scotland, from within Scotland.
We don't need to leave our country in search of acceptance or to be known, or to be discovered as a designer or creative, depending on what field we are working in. As a model, I have had no option but to chase the work down in the major fashion cities, sadly forcing me to leave Scotland in pursuit of success in this side of the industry. I'll be returning permanently to Scotland in a matter of months, where I intend to create and build new things that I hope will flourish from within our country.
In your journey through life you are nurturing your own creative talents through photography and writing. Could you tell us a little bit about this, and especially about your new blog?
I've always been a firm believer in chasing your dreams, believing in yourself and nurturing your spirit in ways that only you can discover through creativity. I feel at peace when I write, or when I am looking at photographic art, moving into those fields in some respect, was a natural and inevitable transition for me, a transition that I am incredibly excited about!
When it comes to photography, I've taken great influence from two Scottish photographers - Richard Gaston and David Eustace - that have inspired me with not only their work, but their outlooks on the industry.
When it comes to my blog, I think it is just something that makes sense to me at the moment and I feel that it is a market that I can definitely capitalise on. I'm a bit of a business-head when it all comes down to it, I think that social media can be used in many ways and spreading views on things like fashion can be a very important one, in my opinion.
You are a self-taught master of social media, as thousands of us have witnessed through glimpses of your own clothing brand Alaska Supply Co. Can you reveal any more about this project?
Thank you! I guess the social media thing made sense to me early, I just had to learn how to manipulate the 'reach' of social media in order to create a larger and larger following organically. I'd like to one day sit back and say that I've succeeded! With Alaska, it's a project that my brother and I have been working on for many, many years. We spent countless nights thinking of ideas, concepts, designs and plans for the brand. Even the name took us over two years to decide on! I'm pleased to say that we have discovered a vision and a goal that suits our dreams for the brand and is one that we hope the public will enjoy.
Our first product will launch in a matter of weeks as a preview to the full collection released this winter. Alaska will be a winter-wear brand with a more fashion-based approach. Thicker materials, sturdier design and longer lasting fabrics are the goal. We may compromise a more widespread audience's attention as a result of entering into such a niche area of the market but it is the vision that we believe in and I am really, really excited to see where it will take us.
You've just been nominated for a prestigious Scottish Fashion Award for Scottish Model of the Year, how does this feel, considering you were working in a call centre only last year?
It's been a truly eye-opening and spiritual journey for me. I've been fortunate to have seen a large chunk of the world in a very short time; this means the most to me. I have met some incredible people and I've worked with some unbelievable brands and designers. I can't even describe how surreal the whole situation still feels for me, being nominated for such a prestigious award came not only as a shock, it also made me realise that in my short time as a model, I have succeeded in doing what I set out to do when I began.
I always believed I'd go on and do different things with my life, I just never expected it all to transform and become the whirlwind life that I now lead, so quickly.
What message do you have for creatives in Scotland, and are there any emerging talents we should look out for?
If I could say anything to the industry in Scotland as a whole, I'd tell them all to remember every single day why they started their journey in the first place. This industry is hard at times and I've been left to feel like I should give in, only to remember the reasons I chose to do this.
As far as emerging talents go, I'll speak from my perspective as a model. There are a lot of great young models in Scotland now and it is essential that their mother agencies nurture and develop them in the best way. To list a few bright names, I'd like to mention Leighton Neill, Jack Devlin, Blair Dobson, Paul Cogan, Kieran Docherty and Neve Caffrey. Those guys have genuine talent and a massive amount of potential, I only hope that they are developed in the right way by their agencies.