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The A-lister that didn’t get invited to Perthshire’s celebrity fashion show

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Perthshire’s A-list quotient received a temporary boost on Monday for Christian Dior’s Cruise 2025 runway show at Drummond Castle. Jennifer Lawrence, Minnie Driver and Lily Collins were among the stars propping up the glitzy guest list. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Borders stood a leggy A-lister without an invite despite a connection to the French fashion house. Attendance would have been tricky, though. It’s a building, after all.

I’m talking about the Bernat Klein Studio, the Nottinghamshire-born architect Peter Womersley’s modernist marvel near Selkirk. Built in the 1970s, it was the workspace of the Serbian émigré Bernat Klein, an artist and textile designer. His tweed fabrics, rendered in a cathedral of colours and interwoven with velvet ribbon, featured in Chanel and Dior’s haute couture collections. Fashion editors would fly to Scotland to appraise Klein’s creations from the glamorous sunken lounge of his nearby house, High Sunderland — another Womersley masterpiece.

Jennifer Lawrence at the Christian Dior Cruise 2025 show at Drummond Castle

ANDREW MILLIGAN/PA WIRE

Klein’s studio garnered as much acclaim as the art produced within it. It has echoes of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, with two storeys of strongly horizontal, cantilevered concrete that erupt from a plinth of blue-black bricks. Frameless glazing wraps around the structure. It has won multiple awards and is among the 8 per cent of Scotland’s listed buildings considered important enough to be granted category A status. So why has it been left to rot for two decades?

Oh, usual story. Someone bought it, started renovating then gave up on the idea without selling it on. And though academics and architects are fighting to save it, with renewed efforts to bring the studio under National Trust ownership, I wonder how many outside of this coterie would care were it razed. There was no public outcry when Womersley’s Port Murray house in Ayrshire, another modernist gem, was demolished in 2016 (the year of Scotland’s Festival of Architecture, no less). It wasn’t even listed.

The Bernat Klein Studio near Selkirk

The Bernat Klein Studio near Selkirk

ALAMY

You may abhor the stark sobriety of modernism and brutalism. Plenty do. But I’m baffled by this laissez-faire approach to the preservation of our postwar architectural heritage. These buildings are as much a part of Scotland’s history as their more ornamented predecessors, yet earn a fraction of the respect for committing the cultural crime of being an acquired taste.

Perceived architectural significance still seems to hinge on pediments and pilasters when the language of our built environment has expanded beyond that. Selkirk is all the richer for its association with both the Haining, a Palladian mansion, and the Bernat Klein Studio. Neither diminishes the other. So far only the Haining has been rescued from ruin.

Neglecting the studio leads to more than the deterioration of its physical form. If it crumbles so too will its story — about a period of optimism, and at a time when two outsiders chose Scotland as their home, wielding the heft of their creative talents to place it on a global stage. Shame on us if we allow their legacies to gather moss.

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