Thursday, 2 February 2017

Johnstons of Elgin AW17: A Great British Company Builds on its Design & Manufacturing Skills

Johnstons of Elgin is one of Great Britain's greatest clothing and cloth manufacturers. With a mill in Elgin and a knitwear factory in Hawick in the Scottish Borders, they modestly design, innovate and manufacture for some of the greatest and best known international couture and fashion design houses. Unusually, they manufacture vertically: that is, their factories process raw materials right through to finished product. Needless to say, they play a vital role in the two Scottish towns where they operate.

Johnstons of Elgin - image Grey Fox

I've been following this company for a couple of years now and have been much impressed by what they do, the passion and skills of their employees and the breathtaking quality of what they produce. I will follow the Johnstons journey over the next few years as this is a British business to be proud of and to support. In an uncertain Brexit future, we will need the skills and quality of companies like this to consolidate this country's economic future.

I describe Johnstons as operating 'modestly' because, unlike so many of their designer and fashion clients, they're not well-known to the general public. However, they've now taken the decision to show their skills to the wider world under their own name. Early last year they appointed Alan Scott as Creative Director to build on this unparalleled design and manufacturing heritage to produce the highest quality fashion products. Their AW17 collections for men and women were launched late last year and will, I hope, be the start of something special for Johnstons.

Here are some of Alan Scott's superb sketches of the collection:


The collection centres on four themes: Natural Undyed, Cathedral, Heritage and Super Luxe. The first uses the warm browns, creams and greys of undyed cashmere and vicuna. The second takes design elements from Elgin Cathedral and its textures, patterns and stained glass. The third celebrates the 220 year history of the company by drawing on archive materials. The last records the very contemporary and technical nature of Johnstons' skills, with metallic yarns and creative effects. These themes apply to both men's and womenswear.

Starting fairly modestly, Alan Scott has great ambitions for the collection and the company. When I, in an overpowering fit of enthusiasm, suggested that Johnstons could become a Scottish (British) Brunello Cucinelli, a company whose products are a byword for off-the-peg quality tempered by a socially responsible approach to the world around it, he didn't entirely disagree. I admire this ambition and wish them well.


Super Luxe

I saw the AW17 menswear collection in Florence recently. The sumptuousness of the fabrics and the beautiful hand-finished tailoring and construction make this menswear that is of the highest quality. Johnstons strive to achieve ever finer finishes, using, for example, an extract of crustacean shells to allow them to spin cashmere yarn of such incredible fineness that it would otherwise break, producing astonishingly light knitwear for summer and luxury uses.

From left to right clockwise: Natural Undyed, Heritage, Cathedral, Super Luxe

The collection will be available later this year and will be built on in following years. There is much to come from Johnstons of Elgin. I hope that consumers here in the UK will support them with the same enthusiasm that they receive from consumers abroad. Buy British and be proud. See Johnstons of Elgin.

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