Stories / September 2019

Begg & Co: The Pride of Paisley

Weaving experts Begg & Co have become renowned for their lovingly crafted scarves and shawls, which are inspired by the dynamic Scottish landscape.

It will come as little surprise that the ‘paisley’ pattern, most famously used for silk ties and handkerchiefs, is named after the Scottish Lowland town of Paisley where it was first designed. This would be enough of a contribution to place the small Scottish town on the sartorial map of excellence, except it is also the home of one of the world’s most respected weavers and scarf-makers too.

Begg & Co was established in 1866, when founder Alex Begg began producing woollen shawls with his small team of trusted weavers. The town was an important weaving hub in the Victorian times, and Alex Begg himself can be amongst those credited with some of the earliest uses of the iconic teardrop pattern – particularly on the luxurious paisley shawls which survive today. Two examples of these Begg & Co shawls remain. To see them you will have to make a pilgrimage to the Paisley Museum, only a short trip from Glasgow (amidst all the scotch-sampling and hiking that the region offers, it’s a worthwhile trip).

Begg & Co is no longer based in Paisley but in Ayr on Scotland’s enigmatic south-west coast – a move that led to the family investing in new machinery, allowing them to develop cutting-edge weaving techniques. Over the past 150 years, Begg & Co has continued to innovate, producing the most gorgeous, light, delicate, and warm scarves – the product they are now best known for – in Scottish cashmere or lambswool.

Each item is made in Scotland, produced by expert weavers in Begg & Co’s Ayrshire factory, put through contemporary and traditional methods of manufacture that ensure each piece is as luxurious and durable as it can be. After all, these are not only scarves ‘to be seen in’ (we’ll come to design a little later) but to keep the wearer warm and snug on a frosty day.

Each piece of cloth is pummelled for a softer hand-feel using the same wooden device created by Begg employees themselves 70 years ago. Their characteristic ripple effect (the sign of a good Scots scarf) occurs from gentle brushing with Italian teasel plant heads, dampened in mineral-rich Scottish water.

The Scottish landscape is indeed a part of the composition of each Begg & Co piece. The distinctive earthy tones of each scarf are themselves drawn from Scotland’s magnificent natural countryside: the wide expanse of the skies over rolling hills, valleys and sea. A Begg & Co scarf is more precious than those imitators picked up over on Princes Street. It is a true product of Scotland, and the other - arguably more timeless - pride of Paisley town.

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