How Artwork Confronts Our Existential Crises: Giles Jackson from Liberation Kilt (#1)

How Artwork Confronts Our Existential Crises: Giles Jackson from Liberation Kilt (#1)

By
Dennis Kamprad

Publish Date:July 4, 2023

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How Artwork Confronts Our Existential Crises: Giles Jackson from Liberation Kilt Co. (#1)

Have you ever heard of tartan, an ancient tribal textile, and how it’s been reinvented to help create a positive impact? Well, then you’ll enjoy our conversation with Giles Jackson from Liberation Kilt!

“Conversations only happen between people, so we have to get people out of our bubbles and connecting with other people in this world.”

Giles Jackson, Liberation Kilt

Three Key Points From This Episode

How getting arrested together with a group of 15 activists helped Giles really spark and bring the idea to life that then turned into the resurrection of Liberation Kilt…

What his concrete first steps were to get it all started and how tartans from Liberation Kilt were worn by the World Wildlife Fund at the COP26 2021 in Glasgow…

How his work helps connect people from all over the world to spark a discussion about some of the most important topics…

About Giles Jackson

Profile picture of Giles

Giles is not only the founder (aka resurrector) of Liberation Kilt, but also a professor of stakeholder capitalism, and wrote one of the first doctoral dissertations on business and sustainability already back in 1994. And as a “practicing academic,” he has held executive positions in the wind energy and manufacturing sectors.

About Liberation Kilt Co.

Logo for Liberation Kilt

Liberation Kilt is a global resistance movement, originally founded by Loftus McLeod of Skye, an 18th-century freedom fighter, and resurrected by Giles Jackson in 2010 to fight 21st-century injustices with the soft power of culture. Their recently launched collections of artworks confront two existential crises of our time: the war in Ukraine, and climate change. Liberation Kilt is registered as a Public Benefit Corporation and donates half of their profits to charitable causes aligned with their mission. 

Links and Additional Information Discussed

Reach out to Giles at Liberation Kilt directly to share the global issues that are of greatest concern to you, so that he could create awareness around these with future tartan and artwork collections

Find out more about Liberation Kilt’s artworks collections Believe in Peace (which directly supports charities operating in Ukraine) and Climate Kunst (which directly supports charities working on combatting climate change)

Find out more about the backstory of Liberation Kilt, how they became an official supplier of the WWF, and how you could pre-order your very own kilt.

The Full Transcript

Dennis: So hello and welcome everyone to the Impactful Ninja Show! I’m your host, Dennis Kamprad, and today we’re joined by Giles Jackson from Liberation Kilt. Giles, welcome!

Giles: Thank you very much, Dennis. I’m delighted to join you on your inaugural show.

Dennis: Happy having you! Now, before we go in and tell you your journey and everything of the awesome work that you’re doing with Liberation Kilt, give us a big overview. What is Liberation Kilt?

Giles: Okay, well fundamentally we’re known for a collection of what is known as Tartan textiles and perhaps for your listeners I’ll just explain what those are.

Dennis: Perfect.

Giles: Tartan is really a tribal textile that goes back to the Bronze Age. In fact they had nomadic Celts who wandered as far as northwest China who’ve been found dug up in the sands of the desert wearing these Tartans. So an example of a Tartan would be… this scarf here. This was the original tartan that we designed. And what we do is we take that ancient tradition and we’re reinterpreting it in a new way. So each of our tartans, and we have a collection of tartans, represents a specific set of ideas. The tartan that you’re seeing right here symbolizes the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. So this is known as the Keeling tartan and it’s named after Charles Keeling. who is really the US scientist who is responsible for measuring CO2 emissions since the 1950s and really without him, we wouldn’t know about global warming. So each of our tartans represents a different set of issues, this one for climate change and action on climate change. We have tartans against inequality, we have a tartan against nuclear proliferation, we have a tartan. against the imprisonment of writers of conscience around the world. We have a tartan against human trafficking and each of these tartans is also connected usually with an NGO, an NGO partner that we’re working with.

Dennis: Nice. Any special NGO partners that you want to highlight with some of your partners?

Giles: Yeah, actually one of them would be the World Wildlife Fund. So this is a different version of the red one I just showed you. This is a green keeling tartan. And this was worn by all the delegates of the World Wildlife Fund, who came to COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow. And all of the delegates were in keeling tartan, lambswool scarves woven in Scotland. And they also wore hoodies with WWF Panda with the tartan behind. and other products as well. So it was very exciting. Another NGO, another organization we’ve worked with is United Nations for their campaign against human trafficking. So our Blue Heart Tartan basically is for that campaign.

Dennis: Awesome. And before we jump into your story, what does Liberation Kilt stand for? How does it come across with the name?

Giles: Well, it’s interesting. So it’s named after, it’s really inspired by the legend of a Scottish Scotsman called Loftus Macleod of Skye. And Loftus Macleod in the 18th century suddenly found himself dispossessed by forces beyond his control, unseen big forces. And in response to that, he created a grassroots resistance movement. which he called the Liberation Kilt Company. And the kilt is really a symbol of stepping outside your comfort zone. And that’s really the only way in which change happens is if people are willing to do that. So in addition to the tartan collection, we also have now a collection of artworks. And so you can see some of the artworks behind me. This is from our collection on pollinators, the big five pollinators on which Our survival ultimately depends for our food supply. And also we have a collection that’s just been launched in support and in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

Dennis: I might want to jump in here as well because I really like the collection and the piece that you can see behind me here as well is part of this collection. And this is my favorite one, it’s called Believe in Peace.

Giles: Yes, it’s a flight of doves metaphorically releasing the world of the grip of war. So it’s a very uplifting message.

Dennis: Awesome. Thanks. No, awesome. Thanks for your overview as well. And like everything that went in already. Now let’s take a step back and try to reconnect the dots from your journey.

Giles: Yes.

Dennis: Before you started liberation guild, and even before you thought about like what might be happening, what kind of problems you might want to solve, what is your background? What is your story? What did you do in your professional life? Any special or specific things that happened in your private life as well that led to this point?

Giles: Yes, great question, Dennis. So I think we can rewind the clock back to 2006.

Dennis: Ok.

Giles: So in 2006, because of my background, I’m a professor, but I also wrote my dissertation on sustainable development a long time ago. And I became increasingly interested around in the early 2000s in issues of climate policy. And I was tracking and paying attention to the COP meetings, the UN meetings which happen every year. And I was really concerned about COP, what number was it, COP 12 in Kenya, in Nairobi, Kenya. So meeting of all these environment ministers who came there to discuss how are we going to limit carbon emissions. And what was worrying about all the reports that came out of COP 12 was that there was no mention or no discussion in the conference of emissions. It was just off limits. So you’d think in a straightforward way that governments would be, you know, at a minimum banning coal mining and production of energy using fossil fuels, putting in energy efficient measures, things of that nature and putting in the policies that are necessary to shift the economy into a more carbon neutral direction. But in fact, none of those things were happening. And it was, and the argument was, that, well, if we do those things, we’re not going to be competitive. And so coupled with the lobbying of various fossil fuel interests at these conferences meant that really nothing got done. And I got concerned about that, especially when I saw that pattern repeating year after year after year. So I sort of pivoted and started to get involved in art and activism. And at first we did some crazy things. We produced this billboard size mural, there was a picture of a giant syringe that was pointing up in the sky from a coal plant and the caption was ban lethal injections. So in other words, the coal plant is pollution and CO2 is a form of lethal injection for the planet.

Dennis: Oh wow.

Giles: And that got us a lot of attention, but it also turned some people off. So I started to think about what else we can do to be a bit more inclusive in our approach. So after that in 2009, this is when activism really started to get some momentum in the US and in Europe especially. There was an event called Capital Climate Action, this was in March 2009, and this is really where the seed for Liberation Kilt was planted. So it was held at Washington, DC and the protest was against powering the whole labyrinth that is Capitol Hill with the coal-fired power plant on site there on Capitol Hill, and to get them to shift away from fossil fuels as a power source, which is kind of symbolic if it’s the nerve center of the United States.

Dennis: Mm.

Giles: So I was marching there on the street there, and I decided just on a whim, I was going to strap on a kilt. I have some Scottish heritage in my family. My grandfather was born in Edinburgh. He served in the London Scottish Regiment. And so I put my kilt on and I was marching down the street along with everybody else holding signs and things of that nature. And a Scotsman taps me on the shoulder and we struck up a conversation and he was a kind of wild character. And he said, you know, that’s what this movement needs, its own tartan. It needs its own clan, Tartan, because if you look around, there are all these different mixed messages from different climate groups. And it’s just a cacophony of noise with no unifying united front. And we explained and we were in conversation for half an hour as we were marching. And he was explaining to me, I knew some a little bit about the history of Tartan, but obviously he was from Scotland. He was also wearing a kilt.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: And he sort of went into depth and I got more and more interested and I think that conversation really Planted a seed with me that began to incubate

Dennis: So basically, just to interrupt you, sorry, quickly.

Giles: Go.

Dennis: So basically you were still in your position as a professor. You saw a few things going on like politically that were not in line with basically all of the research and everything that would have been good for the world to actually do. You repeatedly saw business interests were put in front of the, or ahead of the environment.

Giles: Mm-hmm.

Dennis: And this was kind of the later where the first time the idea came when you put on your kilt as I assume Scotsman do sometimes, met the fellow man and then… That’s where the journey, like the first seat probably was planted in your head if they got that correctly.

Giles: Yes, now I take you to the next step. OK, so another protest that happened two months later. And I decided I got a little bit disillusioned with some of the huge environmental groups, et cetera, because I feel like I couldn’t get a personal connection with them. They will send you an email that says, dear Giles, signed so-and-so. But when you respond, you never get a response. So I wanted to do something more local.

Dennis: Yes.

Giles: So I started to work with some local groups. One of them is called Chesapeake Climate Action and CCAN. And sorry, Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And it’s run by a guy called Mike Tidwell, who’s a rather brilliant organizer, has written several books and I’m in awe of this guy. He’s amazing and such stamina. He’s been doing this for decades.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: So I got involved with them and… and they had already set up this campaign that we were going to go to the door of Congressman Rick Boucher and we were going to block his door. And there’d be 15 of us cross-legged in front of his door and preventing anyone from getting in and anyone getting out because Rick Boucher was basically refusing to move climate legislation in Virginia in a more carbon neutral direction. In fact, he was proposing more incentives for coal burning.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: So this was a very targeted sort of campaign and we arrived there, we sat there and we stayed there for a couple of hours until the congressional staffers called the Capitol Police. They came down, warned us that if we wouldn’t move then we’d get arrested and we didn’t move and so we were, read our Miranda rights, handcuffed, taken downstairs. and put into a wagon.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: And then this was the end of May, it was actually quite a warm day. We sat in the wagon for a couple of hours and not really knowing what was going to happen next. Some one of the people in the wagon actually passed out, fainted from the heat stroke. And that’s when they opened up the wagon. And then we were brought into the jail, So there are about 15 of us in there in one big room. And we had a tremendous conversation because there are no interruptions. There’s no cell phone, no Wi-Fi, no TV, nothing like that. So we could just have a concentrated discussion and I could learn from them some of the ins and outs of organizing and activism and really sort of be a fly on the wall. And at that point, I then pitched to them the whole concept of these tartans. representing different social causes. And I said that I was working on one for climate change based on the conversation I’d had with the Scotsman. They said, well, maybe there’s some other issues, sort of these big existential crises that we’ve seen unable to get to grips with due to lack of collective action. So the inequality, nuclear proliferation, and so on and so forth, human trafficking. That’s what really cemented the idea and gave me more of a vision of what we could do with this tribal textile.

Dennis: Oh, wow. That’s quite a journey. So basically from the very first idea to really getting inspired and started, took a little group of 15 people being together with uninterrupted conversations without any connection to the outside world.

Giles: Yes, exactly.

Dennis: Was that also the concrete first step that you talked towards, getting started with Liberation Kilt?

Giles: Yeah, it really that really was the next step was really for me to educate myself. So I sort of began to gather as many materials as I could. Books went into libraries on the history of textiles, the history of tartans going all the way back to the Bronze Age.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: And what I discovered that so fascinating is this textile really has a dual personality, it’s almost schizophrenic, because what you see is on the one hand, these establishment groups like the British armed forces like the royal family who were wearing these beautiful ornate tartans and sort of extremely formal way of presenting themselves, almost ceremonial. And then on the other hand, you have these anti-establish elements, which goes back to the Jacobites. These were the insurgents in Scotland and to the Highlanders. who obviously were not happy about English rule and wanted to take control of their own destiny. And that’s really the basis for the story of Loftus Macleod. So I began to do this research. I noticed that this establishment, anti-establishment dichotomy is interwoven through history since then. So for example, think on the one hand, the armed forces, on the other hand, punk rock. In the seventies, they were wearing tartan. And I found this just so amazingly fascinating that you have this textile with this inherent dynamic to it. So my next step then, having done this research was to begin to sketch what the Keeling Tartan might look like and what ideas would it represent. And fundamentally this tartan here, the Keeling, this is the green version, symbolizes the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy. So… The silver and black track here is like a coal track.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: And the white and yellow track here represents renewable energy, so the tartan itself, the symbolism is the transition from this track to this track from fossil fuel based to renewable energy basis of powering society. So. It was really sort of sketching and trying to figure out visually how that would look. And then what would be the name of the tartan? Right.

Dennis: Liberation Kilt?

Giles: Well, this particular tartan, Keeling, it was named after the scientist, so then I had to contact his son because Charles Keeling passed away some time ago and get permission from Louise Keeling to use the family name, which they graciously allowed us to do.

Dennis: Okay, so basically just to recap a little bit, some time ago you had the idea with the kilt to maybe do something about tartans. A little later, once you got arrested, once you were in a group of other people, it’s okay, we wanna do something about these topics. And then you did a lot of research and the first concrete step for you was basically taking this research yourself into practice. You were doing the sketches and you were developing the first idea for the tartans, thinking about the kilt, what caught the color, what caught the composition. represent and how to make it something real.

Giles: Yes, exactly. And then how to name it as well, because tartans are named. Traditionally, they’re named after families. But here we’re naming it after a scientist and some other tartans are named after events or places.

Dennis: Just out of curiosity, how much time roughly passed between the first idea to actually creating the first chart?

Giles: You mean from the sketches?

Dennis: More like from once you had the idea you want to develop something yourself, you want to make some change to actually doing the first sketches.

Giles: Well, I would say that March 2009 was when I met the Scotsman. Doing the first sketches was in the same year. I began to sketch them out literally over the summer in a cabin that belongs to some dear friends in Cape Cod. So I was sort of ensconced in this little converted stable. made into a cabin and I was sketching there during the summer, again in an isolated, uninterrupted place because I think that’s where you can think most clearly.

Dennis: Awesome.

Giles: So I’d say, so it was really just a matter of months actually. I was quite energized about it.

Dennis: Yeah, it’s quite a pretty quick time. Seems to be some entrepreneurial spirit starting there as well. Now, from the first sketches to the next steps, what was your progression like after sketching it? How did you get the first tartans made? Or was it something you did? And what kind of steps and happens along the way to grow liberation guild?

Giles: Yeah, well, the first step, the instinct was, obviously you have to go through the Scottish Register of Tartans. So you present them the sketch, you provide them with a name and a letter from the Keeling family saying, yes, we authorize Charles Jackson and Liberation Kilt to use this, to use this family, our family name. And you submit that and it goes through a whole process of review. Finally, they approve the tartan. At that point, I decided I’m going to start reaching out to some people, because I think that’s very important as an entrepreneur. A lot of the work is sort of happens in your head, but ultimately nothing gets done unless you engage. So the first about the first thing I did was to write a letter to Vivian Westwood.

Dennis: As you would do as the first thing, right?

Giles: Yeah, because, you know, she was she had dressed up the sex pistols, which again, punk and tartan that connection. and she understands this sort of, she had this dynamic herself in her way of thinking between establishment and anti-establishment.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: She was very much, so I could really relate to what she was doing and I have tremendous admiration for her and it’s so sad that she passed away. So I wrote a letter to her and she had a very, a very gracious assistant by the name of Tiza Bailey who repeatedly said We’re sorry, but Vivian’s not available to meet with you for coffee next week.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: Why don’t you try again in a month? So I write again in a month. We’re sorry, Vivian’s traveling to Central Europe and Vivian’s traveling to New York. So after a few months, I kind of got the message that maybe this wasn’t going to happen. So that was sort of the first thing. And then at that point, I began to really design. The same thing I did for the Keeling Tartan, the Climate Change Tartan, was to then design for the other issues. The next one I did was the Human Trafficking Tartan, which is the Blue Heart Tartan. It was then going through the UN, getting approval to use Blue Heart as a name from the United Nations. Going through the registration process, we did the same thing for the Havel Tartan. That’s named after Vaslav Havel, the former… Czech president and the dissident playwright, who a core part of his ideas is that free expression is really the bedrock of any liberal democracy. As soon as you start suppressing free speech, that’s the end of it. And to get through to his family, I basically went through Penn International, which is a very well-respected literary society that campaigns. for the release of writers of conscience around the world in these various autocratic regimes. So it was really, took me a couple more years really to get these other tartans registered and then something unexpected happened. I didn’t know this, but every time you register a tartan in Scotland, a message is sent out by the Scottish register to whoever is on the email list announcing. that hey, there are some registered tartans, okay? I didn’t know that, no one told me that.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: So suddenly I get this call from an independent journalist who writes for major newspapers in the UK. And he said, oh, I just saw that you registered five tartans for all these different causes. Would you like to, can I do a story on this? And it ended up being a full page in Scotland on Sunday, which is the sort of national newspaper. which was great traction.

Dennis: Mm.

Giles: We also had some negative traction, however. After the publication of the tartans, I began to work with a mill in Scotland and they produced a piece of the tartan. And then unfortunately, some unscrupulous person decided that they would start selling our tartans online. and I discovered this just by doing a search on the internet and have basically claimed ownership of our tartans and that was a real setback for me because I had to hire a law firm in London to basically defuse the situation and eventually we prevailed and were able to get back on track

Dennis: Oh wow, some of the challenges along the way now.

Giles: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Dennis: So from starting with the first designs to getting, I didn’t even know you would have to get some approval for the tartans and register the name, so something new to be learned, but then

Giles: Yep.

Dennis: it also provided you a lot of benefits with, well, being sent out with all the new approved tartans from the Scottish government. And the news, a journalist picked it up, put it in the news journey and you got a lot of traction out of it. Plus some challenges along the way as well.

Giles: Yeah, that’s true.

Dennis: Well, taking on this journey now, basically from a lot of these steps that happen after you sketch the first Titan, where are you now with Liberation Kilt?

Giles: Well, there are really sort of several pillars to Liberation Kilt. Of course, there are the Tartans themselves, which is a growing collection. And we’ve worked with different NGOs such as WWF, et cetera. And that collection continues to grow. And an important part of the Tartans also is something called the Rebel Tartan Project. And the Rebel Tartan Project is run by an incredible woman. Her name is Juliana Sissons. And she’s been working with me really for 10 years and what she does is she takes these tartans and she works with students in fashion and design and art students around the world and they take the tartans almost as a starting point for their own creative journeys. So they’ll take an issue such as human trafficking and they’ll if they’re students in Manchester for example they will go out and research trafficking in the city of Manchester.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: We have students in India and Pearl Academy, we have students in Tokyo at the Bunker College of Fashion. We have students in France, in Paris and in China and across the UK, including Glasgow School of Art. So for the last 10 years, she’s led these very exciting programs, collaborating with different universities and giving… very creative young people the opportunity to express themselves through weaving, through knitting and through print.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: And we have a website. So the Tartans and the Rebel Tartan project really go hand in hand.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: I’ve always seen the Tartans as just a starting point for creative expression rather than an end in themselves. So that’s the Tartans and the Rebel Tartan project. The second thing is the artwork collection that we touched on earlier.

Dennis: Yeah. Just one comment on this. That really sounds like you were able to build a grassroots movement based on all the students helping you from all over the world, integrating their cultures, integrating their challenges into the designs of the tartans. One connected question to this, are you still designing them or are you now having like a big collaboration with many different designs of, well, basically new tartans that you could use and could register?

Giles: I’m still, I’ve still been designing them, but I am constantly, so every time Juliana starts a class with a group of students, I usually join through, like we are now,

Dennis: Yeah.

Giles: online, and I join with the students and I give them the overview of what we’re doing and I try to inspire them. And then I help to review the work and attend the final presentations.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: So I’m constantly try to be in touch with Juliana and with the students to get ideas for new tartans and also for the artworks which came out of the tartans.

Dennis: Uh-uh.

Giles: Juliana herself is very much plugged into the education system. She teaches across multiple institutions and she’s an external examiner at Central St. Martins which is one of the, well probably the top UK fashion design school.

Dennis: Mm.

Giles: So I get the benefit of her great wisdom on design issues too.

Dennis: Awesome.

Giles: So we talked about the Tarthens and the Rebel Tartan project. Then of course there’s the artworks. Now the artworks really began around 2015, partly inspired by the Rebel Tartan project. I began to explore climate change collections. And we’ve been working really since 2015, 2016 on different climate change collections, one of which behind me is the pollinators collection. And then last February, literally two days into Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, I reached out to a Ukrainian artist, a wildly talented young street artist in Ukraine, Volodymyr Olshanetsky, his name is. And he and I worked together in the last year on this Believe in Peace collection.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: So there’s the tartans, there’s the artworks, and on our site, the artworks are available in many different formats beyond wall art, the type that we’ve both got on our walls here, but also device cases and coffee mugs and cushions for sofas and many other ways of weaving the issues into your life.

Dennis: Awesome. Now, I think this would be probably a perfect transition for, well, letting everyone who joined us today know how can we support you and what happens with all the proceeds. Do you maybe share something there?

Giles: Yeah, yes, excellent point. So we are we are set up as a benefit corporation. We weren’t originally a benefit corporation, but a few years ago, I changed the articles of incorporation. So the difference between a regular C corporation and a B corporation, for those that don’t know, is that in a regular C corporation, shareholders take priority. But when you change your articles of incorporation, So in other words, your legal DNA is different because shareholders are one of many stakeholders. So once we had changed our legal DNA, it made it possible for us to put in a policy where we donate 50% of our profits to charities aligned with our mission. So it kind of makes sense with the tartan that we’re connected with WWF exactly in that way, because we want to magnify the impact. of what we’re doing by making those donations and it’s really the best part of what we do in a way.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: So, the best way to support us obviously would be to actually we would like to hear from people in terms of what are the issues that are most of greatest concern to them. We haven’t been able to address all the world all the issues there are so many we’ve we have a fairly small. collection, but we do want to learn and get insights from students but also from others beyond. What are the issues that people care about and where are the areas where we need to put our focus in the future? That’s number one.

Dennis: Mm.

Giles: Number two, obviously, is to perhaps take the bold step and become a collector. Currently, we’re not selling the scarfs and but we plan to be doing so in the next year or so. It takes a lot work to bring these things online. However, our artworks collection is live and we have lots and lots of options. In fact, we have close to 900 different products online that people can choose from.

Dennis: Um, that’s a range.

Giles: So to get connected with us in some way, shape or form, I think would be extremely exciting.

Dennis: So basically for everyone listening to us, the first point would be getting connected. And the second one, we basically checking out the collection, seeing if anything is interesting, inspiring, like basically like I did, or like you have of your background, one and also knowing that 50% of all the profits will be donated. We’ll put the links in the show notes as well so that you can easily, everyone can easily reach out to you as well.

Giles: Okay, great.

Dennis: What now? taking a look ahead in the future. What are kind of your, what is your vision? What is your, what do you want to achieve going forward with Liberation Kilt as well? Or any concrete plans?

Giles: Yeah, I think one of the things, I mean, ultimately what excites me is not so much, I mean, the work is a means to an end. It’s exciting, doing creative things I love to do and it’s tremendously fun to work with people all over the world, et cetera. But for me, the thing that really excites me is this idea, which is always in the back of my head of two people. connecting in a room, in an airport, on a train, or whatever, because they happen, complete strangers, because they happen to be wearing the same tartan, or have an interest in the same artworks. And I think part of what really drives me is this idea of people connecting, especially in the real world, as opposed to online. Because if you think about it, change really only happens through conversation. and conversation only happens between people. And so we have to get people sort of out of our bubbles and connecting with other people in this world if we’re going to build this critical mass, this movement forward. To take that to its logical conclusion, ultimately what we’d like to do is create literally a destination. I hate to use the term retail, but retail will be part of it that might be based in somewhere like Edinburgh or London where people could go. And it would be organized not in the conventional way of, well, here’s the menswear section, here’s women’s wear and here’s accessories, but rather by issue. So here’s the inequality, here’s climate change, here’s human trafficking, here’s nuclear, et cetera. And in each of those, you would have amazing things, books that you could refer to.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: There would be tartan goods, there would be artworks, there would be the people that we’re honoring, such as Charles Keeling, their legacy. and there would be a place to hang out and there’d be a place for people like Dennis to come and speak and there would be just a place to get that rich exchange and to inspire people to go further. So I think that’s definitely in our sights and I think that I’m hoping there’s a hunger for this type of thing.

Dennis: Oh, I could easily imagine that. Cause it sounds like it’s around creating a connection around the world. I’ve seen just with this art piece, it’s a super easy conversation starter. And especially if you have something like a flagship store or like a flagship place where people could go. And even if it’s tourists visiting any of the cities you would be open then and really getting to know, okay, what are the issues that they care most deeply about and seeing how they can get involved knowing that everything they purchase would cover. get a donation and what they bring home with them would be like a conversation starter and an awesome piece to just talk about an current issue.

Giles: Yeah, these issues are difficult to talk about, especially in the current very fraught environment. People are naturally hesitant to engage on these issues, but we have to do it. And so we have to find almost a Trojan horse for doing that. And that’s sort of the strategy. And of course, we’d need to have a tailor there to measure people for kilts and possibly even a working loom, you know, that would… people could see weaving, because I think people like to see the making process.

Dennis: I am. Before we go into the into the final part of basically you sharing with us some of the learnings for your personal life and also for all of yours, is there anything that I forgot to ask you about Liberation Kilt or is there anything you wanted to speak about and get the chance yet?

Giles: That’s a very good question. I would say yes, not really so much about Liberation Kilt, but more about learning from the past.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: And what I mean is, through history there have been so many inspiring individuals who’ve done amazing things and you know, even just the other day I was reading about Joe Strummer, who was the vocalist for The Clash in the 70s. And he basically, just reading an interview with Time Out, and in the interview he basically said is, all we want to achieve is an atmosphere where things can happen.

Dennis: Mm.

Giles: We want to keep the spirit of the free world and we’re just using this limited firepower, which is our guitars, our amps and our drums. And I think if you just go back and listen to other people who’ve tried to do something, and have made a dent in the universe and to learn from these people. And I think we can move forward faster if we learn the lessons of others from the past. So I’m constantly trying to find new sources of inspiration.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: I think that’s a very healthy thing.

Dennis: Awesome. I like that. It’s always good to basically never stop learning, never stop looking for what’s out there, what else can come in.

Giles: Yes, yes.

Dennis: Now let’s transition to the final part. From all the work that you’ve done basically with all the art world, with the tartans, with liberation kilts, what were some of the learnings that you were able to take away for your personal life to basically become more impactful based on that?

Giles: Yeah, I would say. One of the big things is… to recognize that this is a marathon, not a race. Many of these issues that we face are intergenerational issues. They’re not going to be solved in one generation. They’re going to take multiple generations. And one of the things I’ve noticed from being involved in activism and also in entrepreneurship, because I was involved in a wind energy startup years and years ago, and I’ve seen people burn out. And I think the most important thing is to prevent burnout and to pace yourself.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: And there’s a great quote from Yvonne Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, who says, how you climb the mountain is more important than getting to the top. And I think that’s true. You have to take slow, methodical steps. Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t try and do too much all at once. but just pace yourself, keep the vision, the ultimate vision in the back of your mind as you go. And that way you’ll be able to stay the course and also be able to do something that is hopefully enduring that others can then take and take to a new level because we can’t do everything ourselves. So I think that’s one of the big lessons that I’ve learned and that I try to practice in everything that I do.

Dennis: Awesome. And if you had to share one, one of the key learnings with, with all of viewers, um, and what you think like for, and like as a general thing, what we could do basically to become more impactful as well as what they’ll also be taking everything like one step at a time, not, not over pacing in that sense.

Giles: Yeah, I would say if I could think of one key lesson, it would be to expect the unexpected. And what I mean by that is the opportunity to be impactful is probably not gonna be presented to you on a silver platter, nicely packaged. If you look back at my own experience, for example, it came in the form of somebody tapping on me on the shoulder at a protest march.

Dennis: Hmm?

Giles: Now I could have just ignored that conversation and gone about my day, but I decided to actually incubate it and to think about is there something here that may not be obvious at first, but could it lead to something? Could it be the seed of something new? Could it germinate?

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Giles: Could it sprout if I nurture it? So I think to be very aware as you go about your day, as you watch the news, as you read articles, as you… engaging conversations with people, any potential conversation, random or otherwise, could potentially contain a very valuable seed. And I think the thing to do is to have that mindset of looking for these seeds. And when you see one, explore whether it might be something that you could plant and could be responsible for.

Dennis: Amazing what a beautiful way to end our conversation. Giles, thanks so much for sharing your story and all the best with Liberation Kilt and to everyone else joining us today. Thanks so much for joining and stay impactful!

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