What do you do when you’re a descendant of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? It’s elementary — you create a tartan based on his most famous fictional character.
Tania Henzell is a great-great-step-granddaughter of the author, and a tartan creator in her own right, so it made sense for her to design one based on Conan Doyle’s world-famous detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Conan Doyle was of Irish descent and born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he obtained a medical degree. Soon after, he began a detective series with his first book, “A Study in Scarlet,” in 1887 where he introduced the Holmes character. The success of that work led Conan Doyle to eventually pen three more novels and 56 short stories featuring the detective and his sidekick and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson.
To celebrate her ancestor’s heritage, Henzell, whose great-step-grandmother Jean was Conan Doyle’s youngest daughter, created a tartan in muted tones of green, to represent Ireland, and blue, to represent Scotland. There is a thin blue line edged with brown, which is meant to represent the Reichenbach Falls where Holmes was thought to lose his life after fighting with his nemesis Professor Moriarty. A gold line is meant to reference Holmes being the greatest detective of his time.
In a visit to New York earlier this month along with the Baker Street Irregulars, a long-standing literary organization of Holmes enthusiasts, Henzell said it took several years to obtain, but she eventually had her tartan approved by the Scottish Register of Tartans, a first for a literary character.
“Tartan has great design appeal, and it was a fascinating experience coming up with a pattern that reflects who Conan Doyle was, as well as tying in elements that are entirely Sherlock,” she said.
She used that tartan to create a variety of accessories including a deerstalker hat, bow ties, scarves, ties, a brooch, a women’s purse, a hip flask and neckties. There is even a kilt, waistcoat and jacket as well as women’s skirts and a tartan tweed coat. Prices range from 25 pounds for a bow tie and 75 pounds for the deerstalker hat to 175 pounds for the waistcoat, 595 pounds for the kilt and 1,300 pounds for a cape.
Right now, the products are being sold on the Sherlock Holmes Tartan web site, but Henzell is hoping to expand distribution in both Europe and the U.S. “America is the better place to get started,” she said. “In Scotland and England, Sherlock is popular, but it’s just another tartan.”
Her first go-round in the States came last month during a trunk show at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York where the lambswool scarves, bow ties and rose brooches were the most popular sellers. She is planning to visit Italy and Japan later this year to test those markets as well.
And she’s also hopeful that next year’s release of “Sherlock 3,” a film starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, will also help raise visibility of the character and his newly created tartan.