New styles from Italian tartan:
From fish fryer to fashionista is an unlikely career journey and Michael Lemetti admits he pinches himself every time he sees a big name celebrity wearing his uniquely patterned cloth.
Lemetti, who last year sold the family chip shop in Falkirk, is the creator of the Italian national tartan which has built a big following among the stars.
Singers Michael Buble, Paolo Nutini and and the actor Al Pacino have ordered garments, drawn to its link with their Italian descent.
“I’ve also sold a jacket and scarves to Jim Kerr of Simple Minds,” he adds. “Well, he does own a hotel in Italy!”
When Michael Buble was playing Stirling Castle a few years ago, Lemetti found out his measurements beforehand, made contact through ITV which was filming him, and had a kilt made up.
“It turns out we had similar roots. Michael is Canadian Italian and we talked about our grandfathers who were both fishermen.”
Lemetti is a “paid up” member of the Tartan Army, travelling the world watching the Scottish football team.
“Of course, it meant dressing in tartan and kilts,” he says, explaining that it was a conversation with an American during a domestic trip to New York that he got the idea for making an Italian tartan.
Back home in Falkirk, with no formal training, he and his son designed the pattern, incorporating colours associated with Italian history: green, white and red from the national flag, black for the Praetorian Guard, gold from the Roman Empire and azzuri blue, worn by the national sports teams in honour of the House of Savoy, under whom Italy was unified in 1861.
The first cloth was made by Martin Mills in Yorkshire in 2004 and Lemetti soon found it in demand from the stars, including those who have no Italian connection but just like the design..
He supplied a handbag for Lady GaGa, a tartan scarf for the Pope during his visit to the UK in 2010, and kitted out the AC Milan football team, thanks to being president of the Scottish branch of the supporters’ club. Footballer David Beckham, the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, and the crooner Tony Bennett have also been customers.
Recently he contacted the Rolling Stones management about designing a jacket for Mick Jagger.
Lemetti is a third generation Scots Italian whose forebears hail from Barga near the walled city of Lucca. His grandfather opened a fish and chip shop in Falkirk in 1895 and Michael, now 59, was involved from the age of 12 until ill-health forced him to sell up.
His tartan clothing business is now thriving and run mainly online with his wife Annette. They have developed partnerships with a number of organisations, including Visit Scotland.
The business is now working with Paul Walker, the tweed retailer who runs the Walker Slater shops in Edinburgh, London, and the recently-opened outlet in Glasgow.
“We’re going to do a range with Paul Walker, including man bags,” he says, adding that he has another big ambition to showcase his tartan.
“I’d love to do a fashion show in Italy,” he says. “That would be just fantastic.”
Additional research and reporting by Terry Murden