When they first started making kilts just over a decade ago, Paul and Amanda McPhail never planned on turning their passion into a business, but that’s exactly what happened for the Penticton pair.
McPhail Kilt Makers, now located in the Cannery Trade Centre at 1475 Fairview Rd. after stints on Main Street and in their home, has made a name for itself internationally thanks to the high quality, hand-stitched kilts both Paul and Amanda produce. The two said while it may sound surprising, a good portion of their business comes from Scotland and other European-based retailers who appreciate the quality of their apparel.
“In Scotland, there’s a high demand for kilts right now when there wasn’t before. But now they’re running into the problem where there aren’t enough tailors to make the kilts,” said Amanda. “And here, our name is getting out there. We’ve been doing the Highland Games circuit. People heard about us and wanted to order from us. Then there were people who wanted to get wedding rentals, so it just kind of blossomed from there.”
Paul added, “We never envisioned what we would be today. We have people coming to see us in Penticton from all over.”
Paul said he made his first kilt for himself, with the help of the book titled The Art of Kilt Making, but the process was laborious due to the book’s wording and hand-drawn illustrations. He joked that they’ve managed to go from taking 400 hours on one kilt to being able to produce roughly five per week, with one kilt taking about three days to make.
“We start with eight yards of single-width fabric on average, and all of the fabrics that we use are woven in Scotland, but the Welsh tartans we do have woven in Wales. They are 100 per cent pure new wool,” said Amanda.
“We put 20 to 25 hours into each kilt. Everything is 100 per cent hand-stitched so we don’t use sewing machines or anything like that,” said Paul.
A large part of their job, aside from physically constructing the kilts, is educating their customers on the tartans or designs available and just how a kilt should fit. They see a lot of people wearing ill-fitting kilts, or even wearing them backwards with the pleats in the front.
The McPhails will have a presence at the upcoming Penticton Scottish Festival on July 6.
Not only will the McPhail Kilt Makers have a tent selling merchandise and allowing festival goers to try on a traditional-style kilt for photos, the members of their family plan to compete in numerous events throughout the day including the bagpipe competitions and the heavy events.
For more information about McPhail Kilt Makers, visit www.mcphailkiltmakers.com.