Jonathan Saunders’ Glasgow

Since his début at London Fashion Week in 2003, the Scottish designer and former British Designer of the Year has become known globally for his print and silk-screening techniques

Jonathan Saunders outside the Glasgow School of Art
Jonathan Saunders outside the Glasgow School of Art | Image: James Winspear

Because I don’t get home that often nowadays, I’m nostalgic when I do, and love to visit all the places I used to go to when I was a student, to remind myself of how they inspired me and see how they’ve changed. The marvellous thing is how many of them haven’t.

I like to fly back on Friday in time to meet friends for dinner at Café Gandolfi. I used to work there and the chef, Seumas MacInnes, and his team are still mates. The food is excellent, updated Scottish traditional – Seumas knows how to make haggis, neeps and tatties sophisticated. I love the surroundings, too – dark wood panelling and chunky, organic-looking furniture in reclaimed oak by Tim Stead. It’s pretty informal and my sister, Naomi, often comes along with her kids, Iona, aged 12, and Aiden, aged 10. After dinner, the kids go home and Naomi and I check out King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, which has a reputation for picking up hot new bands – it’s where Oasis were discovered. I always feel that a band playing there might be worth listening to, although I’m sometimes disappointed.

On Saturday morning I like to visit Glasgow School of Art, my alma mater. It’s a wonderful Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, but it’s only now that I appreciate how lucky I was to study there. People associate Mackintosh with fluid art-nouveau drawings, but his buildings are graphic, plain and geometric, and it was these, plus Bauhaus style, which influenced my early prints. I see the building with fresh eyes every time, and it still inspires me.


We have a light lunch at Rogano – a fabulous 1920s institution that’s all unspoilt art deco and great cocktails, but unpretentious – and I’ll go with my sister to the Gallery of Modern Art, which has a brilliant children’s art club on Saturdays. Meanwhile, we’ll see what’s new in the gallery or do a little light shopping – I never get time in London, but I do sometimes enjoy wearing clothes other than my own label. Cruise has long been Glasgow’s best. It used to be very “designer” and I would save up for the occasional Helmut Lang piece; it still has top brands, but now there are cool, contemporary labels, too. If the weather’s good, we all go on to Glasgow Green and its Winter Garden for a walk, via Peckham’s – a very Scottish deli, where we buy some caramel shortcake.

I like to spend Saturday evenings in the West End, which has lots of hip bars, restaurants and galleries. I might start by meeting friends for a lager at Jinty McGuinty’s, an old-school Irish bar with live music in Ashton Lane, which is quaint and cobbled and seems more European than Glaswegian. Dinner will be at Cail Bruich, a modern Scottish restaurant with French overtones and a friendly atmosphere. I love food, and here I know I’ll eat well and have a great time without having to think about it. Then we go and dance it off at the Sub Club – I used to do its flyers and still think it’s the best club in the world. I remember when it had chewing gum all over the floor, but it’s been through three incarnations since then and is now relatively smart. At the heart of it, however, is still a great mix of house music and a crowd that’s into serious dancing rather than being super-cool.

All that means, inevitably, a Sunday-morning hangover, so it’s off to Glasgow’s Oldest Chippie for a square sausage in a roll and a can of Irn-Bru on the way to The Barras – a secondhand market in the seedier East End that sells everything from posh antiques to complete junk. There are great vintage clothes, too. I used to get my military jackets there; now I find pieces to study for their amazing cut. Then it’s home for a big family lunch. I also like to fit in a quick trip to Loch Lomond if possible – it’s only 40 minutes away – and then I feel ready for the evening flight back to London.


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