The word "ReWILDing" is seen on a piece of yellow fabric, which is being held above a table by two people's hands. Other fabric samples, and plants, are seen on the table. Image: Muirhead

Nature and sustainability inspire ReWILDing collection from Muirhead

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundScottish leather supplier Muirhead in June will debut a new collection at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg. Visitors to the firm’s interactive Design Garden studio will be able to explore the collection’s ReWILDing theme, which draws major inspiration from the natural world and sustainability, expressing them with an obvious home influence.

Muirhead is part of the Scottish Leather Group, a ‘family-owned family of businesses’ that supplies the automotive, furniture, luxury goods, and mass transit industries — including air transport — with high quality leather. In aviation, Muirhead works with airlines, designers, aircraft seat manufacturers, and business aircraft/VIP customers. Debra Choong, who serves as design manager at Muirhead, is the driving force behind ReWILDing. In advance of AIX, she explains the concept to Runway Girl Network.

We’ve observed design trends and ideas through the year and collated them under the ReWILDing theme as an inspiration for our customers, based on different leather types, colors and textures. Our leathers are bespoke to each customer, but we take cross-industry inspiration and knowledge from within the Scottish Leather Group, helping us develop different products. Our lightweight leather for the aviation industry has fed into automotive, for example, as manufacturers look for lighter solutions in electric cars.”

Anyone who knows Scotland will appreciate the grandeur and variety of its landscape. ReWILDing attempts to capture the essence of that countryside in three themes: Mountains & Moorlands, Wetlands, and Grasslands. Choong says Muirhead is taking the design-led collection to AIX at least in part as recognition of its location and Scottish heritage, one she believes international customers are quick to appreciate.

ReWILDing samples along with some of the plants and materials that inspired them. Image: Muirhead

ReWILDing samples along with some of the materials and plants that inspired them. Image: Muirhead

According to its website, Muirhead is committed to sustainability and nature. ReWILDing satisfies both of those commitments, Choong attests. “It’s about getting back to nature, working with it, being inspired by it, and ensuring our manufacturing process is as least impactful as possible. Then, within each of the themes, we look more closely at different habitats.”

Small by Alpine standards, Scotland’s mountains are nonetheless rugged and snow-capped for much of the year. To the browns, greens, grays, pinks, and purples of rock and heather then, the Mountains & Moorlands theme adds white, a color sometimes seen as less than ideal for airline seats.

On the contrary, Choong reveals: “Traditionally white isn’t the most practical color, but we’ve taken a technique from our automotive colleagues, and we use a hard-wearing coating that works well with light colors, helping us create a cleaner, lighter passenger environment.”

She also notes the happy coincidence that the Mountains & Moorlands palette fits nicely into current global design trends for ‘cleaner, softer interior colors’.


Wetlands, meanwhile, adds darker hues, including blues, and, Choong says, “One of the leathers has a slightly more organic finish, contrasting darker and lighter browns.

“Wetlands are among the UK’s most diverse habitats. We’ve tried to reflect that and tie in the importance of protecting those environments with our sustainable manufacturing.”

Grassland is a less obvious Scottish theme, its obscurity proving Choong’s point that much of the habitat has been lost.

In what little remains, she and her team found a diversity of wildflowers, “providing vibrancy and colors that we’ve used to inform the theme. It’s where we have some of our brighter colors and it fits in with wider design ideas, the wilder, more rebellious side of life, especially as we come out of the pandemic and people look for change.”

Debra Choong, Design Manager at Muirhead and the Scottish Leather Group, contemplates a gorse bush. The plant’s bright yellow flowers are an iconic feature of Scotland's landscape. Image: Muirhead

Debra Choong, Design Manager at Muirhead and the Scottish Leather Group, contemplates a gorse bush. The plant’s bright yellow flowers are an iconic feature of Scotland’s landscape. Image: Muirhead

Muirhead is based in Bridge of Weir, a town that traces its connections with the leather industry back to the second half of the 18th century. Though Glasgow is less than 20 miles away, the town’s rural setting provides ready access to elements of the countryside that inspired Choong and her team. 

“I’ve lived in Scotland a while, so I’ve swum in lochs, walked up mountains and experienced the landscape. I love trees and take lots of photos. Even the path between the factory and town has loads of wildflowers, so we could see the colors up close. And Loch Lomond is just 30 minutes’ drive away. It wasn’t hard to find inspiration.”

The ReWILDing fruits of Choong and her team’s labour will no doubt give airlines, seatmakers and others plenty to chew on during AIX.

Related Articles:

Featured image credited to Muirhead