French island adopts Scottish-style tartan

Members of the French Atlantic island of Ouessant's association "Bro ar C'kruz Heol" (Sunset country) pose in Brest, western France, with their kilt made with the new Ouessant tartan, a typical Cetlic multicolored piece of wool. (AFP)

The French Atlantic island of Ouessant has created a distinctive Celtic tartan and registered it with the overseers of the traditional motif in Scotland, local enthusiasts revealed Monday.

A tartan is a chequered pattern invented in Scotland to distinguish between highland clans when worn as a kilt or sash. Its use has begun to spread to other Celtic communities in northwest Europe and the Americas.

"A few of us wear kilts on Ouessant, to cock a snook at outsiders as a joke. So, after a trip to Scotland, we thought 'Why not design a tartan in our island's colours?'," Serge Cariou said in Brest, on mainland Brittany.

Ouessant, known as Enez Eusa in Breton, lies around 30 kilometres off the Breton peninsula, making it the most westerly inhabited territory in France, and shares Brittany's Celtic culture and traditions.

According to Cariou, the new Ouessant tartan will include black and white stripes in reference to the Breton flag and blue and green elements in honour of the robes of ancient Celtic druids and bards.

"Those are the colours of the Eussaf clan, an ancient family that gave its name to Ouessant," he added, noting that "Eusa" as it will be known is the eleventh Breton tartan to be registered.

"This tartan is not a gimmick, it's an act of cultural identity to assert that we have roots," declared Jean-Yves Cozan, Ouessant regional councillor.

"Just as a rootless Japanese puts his kimono on when he gets home, I'll put my kilt on when I get back to Ouessant," he said, brandishing a Eusa kilt cut for the occasion by a Scottish tailor.

The Eusa design has been entered on the Scottish Register of Tartans as number 10,236, 10 years after a loosening of the rules as to who can declare a tartan led to an explosion of non-Scottish and non-clan motifs.