This Inverness lad has the fashion world under his belt
He has done what one would have thought is incredibly difficult these days – he has managed to create a niche for himself in the fashion world.
But despite his success, a career in fashion wasn’t initially what Christian Macleod, 23, from Ardersier, Inverness, set out to achieve.
When he started his career, he was a professional golfer. But a broken ankle during a tour in 2011 put an end to his playing time for a year – during which time Christian had to come up with another way to make an income.
It was then that he decided to start selling the belts he had been making for himself. Now four years on he is about to open his own store in Glasgow and his belts sell from £150-£220.
Why were you making belts initially?
I was always into my belts with golf and when I went to a golf tournament I would always be sick and tired of wearing the belts that you could buy that weren't fantastic,” he said.
“And also every time you went to a golf tournament you could spend £100-£150 on a new belt and five other guys on the course would be wearing the same belt. So I started designing my own and I started wearing it on the course.
Then I broke my ankle and I had to come off tour due to injury. I couldn't compete for a year so that then I thought right, what am I going to do because I can't play golf for a year? So I thought I would do something with my belts. And it's been a great success since. We had Paul Lawrie wearing the belt on the masters four months after that and it's really grown from there.
What was it like for you when you broke your ankle?
It was a total shock. I had been playing golf since I was seven or eight.
Because I had no other form of income I just thought I don't know what's going to happen now. The only reason I went into my belts was because when I was wearing the ones that I designed so many guys on tours were like Christian, where did you get that belt from?
And I was always too embarrassed to say I designed it or it was my own belt so I would just say ‘oh I got it down at some shop in the village’ and when they asked where I would say right go down there, turn right, then left, turn right again, it's quite hidden to confuse them but eventually I told them that I designed them and they were quite shocked, which was funny.
Were you in any way artistic or interested in fashion before?
Golf was always a fashion sport for me. I always focused more on my dress which was probably a bad thing but I was very into fashion and arty at school. So it comes to me quite naturally, which is good.
Have you had any training either in design or running your own business?
No experience in either aspect. I've just been learning it as I go by myself. I've read loads of books regarding the design programmes and learned it on the way. It's been quite a journey, sometimes quite stressful but really fun.
When you first started out then, did you plan to eventually have your own brand and business?
It was always the idea just to wear the belts myself but it was weird because at the time there was nothing worse that I could think of than getting injured and breaking my ankle and being out of golf.
But it was like it was meant to happen because it made me realise that the only way I am going to get some income is if I sell belts.
So that's when I had a bit of capital left over from competing so I designed one belt in three colours and around 500 sold in about four months. So that got me going and I thought I need to do this. It was always a hobby for me but it turned into a business quite quickly for me which was lucky because I never took it too serious at the start and I wasn't chasing people to buy the belts. I think it just grew at its own pace.
How did you sell the first 500?
I set up a website which wasn't very good and a PayPal account and did it all from there. There was a few times when I got back into competing a bit that guys on tour would buy them.
When you experienced the success in such a short space of time, how did that make you feel?
I was shocked. I think that's what made it more shocking. If the brand was Gucci I could hide behind the make, nobody knows the actual designer’s name.
But because the brand name was my name, it was like people are wearing me, I didn't feel very confident about that in the beginning.
When I saw people saying on social networking sites saying I'm wearing my Christian McLeod I just thought Jeez.
I remember I was out in a nightclub in Aberdeen after an event and I was in the toilet and I saw this guy who I didn't know wearing my belt and I was like ‘oh my god’. Or walking down Buchanan Street in Glasgow and seeing this lady with a bright green duffle coat wearing one of my pink belts with a waistcoat.
I just wanted to go over and take a photo. It's always a great feeling seeing people you don't know wearing the product.
When was your first collection launched?
My first collection of belts was 2012, that was the one belt. Then in 2013 I spent a year getting a collection ready. It was a 18 belt collection, I made brochures, a catalogue and a new website. Then I launched the second collection in 2014.
In 2014 you were nominated for Accessory Designer of the Year 2014 at the Scottish Fashion Awards. How did that feel?
It was a surreal experience. Even being down there at the Fashion Awards down in London, I was on the same table as Vivienne Westwood and designers that I've always gone into shops and bought their clothes so it was an eye-opening experience for me.
I had a great chat with Vivienne, it was very inspiring and I felt like this is where I belong and let's keep working hard and we can win the award next time.
What's the plan now?
Every season I take out seven new belts and add them to the collection. So the collection is a progressive one.
There will be times when I release limited-edition belts and then on top of that I am opening my own store in Glasgow in August.
Do you have any plans to expand beyond belts?
Once it all kicked off, I wanted to go into a full collection and go into ladieswear, menswear, kidswear, homewear, all that jazz but I've never ever seen a store in the world that just sells belts.
I love my Christian Louboutins, you know them for their shoes, I love brands that focus on one item and that is their signature.
I can stand out quite well just now because nobody has really done just a belt brand or a store that just does belts.
I could go into clothes, I would love to, but I think if I went into it, I'd just be turning myself into the same as any other brand.
It's nothing different, it's just another shop and you are just paying to have the logo. At the end of the day a polo shirt is a polo shirt, you can't reinvent it so all you are paying for is a different colour or brand.
But I want to see belts as important as shoes. I know if any of my friends are going on a night out they'll say I need new shoes, a new shirt, new jeans but I'm going to wear the belt I've worn for 20 years.
So I think it is an item that is missing. I think I've found a niche in fashion which I didn't think would be possible in the slightest. I'm going to try and change the way belts are looked at and try and get them as important as say a pair of shoes.