AS a young girl growing up in Edinburgh’s New Town, Victoria “Vixy” Rae would walk past Stewart Christie tailors every day, an ordeal she says terrified her such was the intimidating presence of the shop.

Years later she owns the business, and in addition was recently made the first female member of The Incorporation of Tailors of Edinburgh, a body which dates back more than six centuries.

Stewart Christie itself was founded in 1720, making it the oldest tailor in Scotland and the second oldest business in Edinburgh. After being run by four generation of gentlemen named Douglas Lowe, the youngest of which had no heir to pass the business on to, Ms Rae stepped in, along with business partners Daniel Fearn and David Bassett.

It is fair to say that the business had not yet made the move into the 21st century when the new owners took over in 2015.

“There was a typewriter in the office when we moved in that was used for invoicing,” says Ms Rae. “They didn’t have marketing, they didn’t have a website. It was all phone numbers and first names, a Rolodex system for their accounts.”

One of the first tasks she set upon was creating a logo for the business, which had never had a label. “I’m very brand conscious and I come from a brand background,” she says. “I wanted to sell the company but not change its heritage.”

Many of the old practices do remain though because, simply put, they work. All staff too have remained, but there has been a major change to the product offering.

“Dan has taken over the role of Mr Lowe and I came in and was able to create ladieswear, the website, the marketing, it’s been great fun,” she says.

Turnover, which was about £300,000 ahead of the debt-funded acquisition, has now passed £1 million, and Ms Rae says that in September when loans are repaid, profits will fund new ranges, and stock.

This will include a female collection, which has been designed, but won’t fully launch until autumn.

When asked what the target is for the business, it is telling that Ms Rae does not interpret this as a question about numbers, instead explaining her vision of launching a collection to be sold internationally under the Stewart Christie label.

Ms Rae previously ran the Dr Jives and Odd One Our streetwear retailers, which had shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh. But she said the concept “almost died overnight” with the advent of ecommerce. “We were exclusive and then our customers could get anything on eBay,” she says.

After realising the shops could not rely on sales of her own Oddments brand, Ms Rae returned to her first love, which was in design and pattern cutting.

She became head ladies designer at Walker Slater for six years before the chance to acquire Stewart Christie came along.

The work she had undertaken in helping to modernise Walker Slater held Ms Rae in good stead when it came to the task at Stewart Christie. The programme was carried out with great sensitivity, maintaining links to its past while creating a brand fit for the 21st century shopper.

The business has three brackets of tailoring for gentlemen. There is the off-the-peg three-piece suit range, which cost around £500 to £650. Then there is made-to-measure, with the customer choosing the lining, buttons and fabric; these cost around £950 and are made in the UK within five weeks. At the top end, there is the bespoke service, where each suit is hand-stitched to what Ms Rae calls “Savile Row standards, but not prices.” Those prices are £1,500, but round half what could be paid in London.

Most bespoke customers come from the US, Switzerland, Germany and London. The business also makes a lot of ceremonial wear, from judges’ gowns to uniforms for The Royal Company of Archers, the Sovereign’s bodyguards in Scotland.

“It’s definitely a bespoke business and we are celebrating those aspects to make it an experience,” says Mr Rae.

The business prides itself on being generation led, not seasons led, which means it will create designs for young professionals through to their grandparents, who may have shopped there for decades.

Ms Rae says she doesn’t feel any additional burden given she is running a near 300-year-old business.

“I don’t feel like an owner, I feel like a custodian,” she says. “Everything makes sense to me. I know the direction we want to go in, what needs to happen. I want to take it to the next generation. I know that our customers are elderly but we are bringing in the next generation; the sons, the grandfathers. It’s been a tradition for them and we love them to come in.”

The shop itself has undergone significant, yet subtle changes since the new owners took over. Veneer shelving has been replaced with mahogany, old cabinets have been repurposed. Ms Rae tells the story of an elderly man who came in after the refurbishment and asked if they were going to do the shop up, which gave her a sense of satisfaction that her goal for the feel of the shop had been attained.

This look and feel is befitting the traditional methods employed by the business in its manufacturing – all bespoke items are made on site, and everything else is made by partners in the UK.

Maintaining traditional methods of tailoring is an issue close to Ms Rae. To that end, the company is working with local colleges to create an SVQ in tailoring.

“People come out of college as designers but not on the technical side,” she says. “There is not a tailoring qualification.”

Last year the company worked with students to create outfits to represent some of Scotland’s greatest cultural icons of the past 700 years for a Visit Scotland event to celebrate the strength and depth of the country’s creative and textile sector.

And Ms Rae is keen to do more to keep traditions alive. “I’d love to set up a tailoring school in the future. We’re losing so much craft and skills and it would be great to get young people back into it.”

With a custodian as passionate as Ms Rae in place, it would seem Stewart Christie is set to thrive into a fourth century.