WOVEN under a shroud of secrecy at a mill in Aberdeenshire, Herald Scotland can reveal exclusive photographs of the new tartan that Team Scotland will wear for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Created by textile designer and artist Jilli Blackwood, the eye-catching design will be incorporated into the parade uniforms worn by athletes and officials as they march into Celtic Park when the curtain is raised on the 11-day event in Glasgow on July 23.
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Blackwood, a native of the city and graduate of Glasgow School of Art, was commissioned in July to come up with a design that retains iconic Scottish elements while introducing a contemporary twist.
She said it was her goal to "create a strong and confident look through colour and texture which is loosely inspired by the Highland landscapes" as well as reflect the "warmth of hospitality and character" of the host nation.
Blackwood has deliberately opted for a vibrant colour palette, bringing together an unusual juxtaposition of turquoise, fuchsia, burnt caramel and navy blue to create a tartan she believes best encapsulates the four distinctive seasons of Scotland.
The first - spring - was inspired by a visit to Vatersay Bay in Barra. "It's a clear blue turquoise," said Blackwood. "I remember the light on the water and the colour was incredible. The blue is also reflective of the saltire. Next there is a strong fuchsia which comes from that time around August when the heather bursts forth and there is a pink hue to the Scottish hills. That represents summer.
"The main background colour is tobacco or caramel, the idea being of the burnt bracken when it has lost its green. That, for me, is autumn when the sun is dropping lower in the sky and the hills have this rich caramel colour.
"The fourth is a navy blue which is a very narrow stripe in the tartan, reflective of the winter months and darkness of the longer nights."
This marks Blackwood's second foray into Commonwealth Games territory. In 2010, she was director of costumes for the handover to Glasgow at the closing ceremony in Delhi, dressing 350 performers in a vivid red tartan.
She is aware that her latest design may raise eyebrows among traditionalists who were perhaps anticipating more subdued hues.
Having experimented with maroons, dark blues and elements of the current Commonwealth Games Scotland corporate tartan, she said there always comes a point when she's designing "where I decide I'm putting away what I think everyone wants and instead satisfy what I think it should look like and how it should feel."
"It is meant to be high impact," she said. "My brief is to make a big statement when the Scottish athletes walk out into Celtic Park for the opening ceremony. We've got to remember the number of people who will be in the stadium and how far back some will be sitting. It's got to make as big an impression on them as it does for the people in the front seats."
Blackwood said that the feedback from Team Scotland has been "really fabulous" and she was delighted with the response so far.
"It's just so different from what has gone before," she said. "The colours are unique and breathe new life into tartan. Bright is the wrong word. It is a lovely, warm tartan. It radiates warmth. We are a warm nation and I think that is reflected in this."
The tartan has been produced by House of Edgar at the Isle Mill in Keith, Aberdeenshire, and among the first athletes to get a glimpse was former Commonwealth and European champion Hannah Miley who hopes be in action at Tollcross International Swimming Centre during Glasgow 2014.
Jon Doig, chief executive of Commonwealth Games Scotland and Team Scotland Chef de Mission, said: "It is fantastic to watch the design for such an iconic symbol of Scotland unfold here at the Isle Mill.
"The final parade uniform will ensure that, when the eyes of the world are upon us, Team Scotland makes a huge impression when they enter as hosts into Celtic Park on July 23."