For clarity, there are various types of tweed all with different properties and
make-up. Tweed woven in the Borders is finer and softer than the likes of Harris
Tweed, which Walker Slater also uses throughout its range. This is because, for the most part,
Border weavers use merino wool instead of natively sourced wool from the Highlands and Lowlands. “It’s quite
literally down to the nature of the beast, as the climate breeds the animal which breeds the type of wool,” explains
Robin. Merino sheep that are reared in Australasia’s warmer and drier climate, and compared to that of the United
Kingdom have a finer and softer yarn, which is in turn better suited for contemporary tweed tailoring.
After the tweeds are finished and supplied to Walker Slater, they are incorporated
into its ready-to-wear and made-to-measure range, with the blocks cut outside of Leeds. Walker Slater’s stores, of
which there are three in Edinburgh, are all located on Grassmarket, a historic market place street in the Old Town.
Each space is thoughtfully curated with relevant and idiosyncratic items such as vintage cameras, suitcases and
photographs that grace the oak-clad shelves and grey brick walls. “For me, it’s definitely an experience with a
client in the store,” says Akeel Rafiq, the tailoring-trained store manager who has a scrupulous eye for detail.
Amazingly, Akeel tells me that all their staff are all tailoring and made-to-measure trained, so with their in-store
experience they know how to work with a suit and understand its limitations. In addition to their tailoring, the
store also curates a considered range of casual and country clothing, such as shetland knitwear, Northampton-made
shoes and an excellent range of cords.
Rather than wash, dye and spin its own yarn, Andrew Elliot sources it from a number of suppliers, including the likes
of R. Gledhill Ltd who’s based outside of Manchester. From there, the yarns are then warped and wefted into a
pattern that’s designed by Robin. The romance of Andrew Elliot is that it uses looms dating back almost 100 years.
“I don't know what it is but it’s something in the way that the old equipment seems to weave. It’s a bit different,”
Paul explains, “the equipment doesn't push the fibres to the millimetre, so I think there’s an openness to it which
seems to not detract from the durability. You get slightly less yarn in the square inch, which suits our
requirements.” This traditional fabrication process mixed with a contemporary injection of colour, pattern and a
softer yarn is drastically changing the perception of tweed, and much of this is down to Robin, whom Paul refers to
as “a designer, as he designs each tweed”. Walker Slater see this merino wool tweed as integral to the fabric’s
prosperity and future. It retains the traditional tweed’s durable handle and rich texture whilst offering a cloth
that’s softer, lighter and more versatile.
Offering a range of cuts, from the traditional James with its high break-point, boxy
waist and notched lapel to the Edward, which is a slim fitting, long jacket with two side vents and a peaked lapel,
they are relaxed, unstructured and soft-shouldered. For tweed to succeed in this day and age, “the cut has to be
just right”, as Akeel tells me, and the solution seems to be evident in Walker Slater’s relaxed, contemporary
approach. Their work stands as proof that the idea of tweed as a stiff, unflattering and outdated cloth can be put
to bed. By utilising its full potential as a durable, trans-seasonal fabric with an infinite amount of timeless
design possibilities, the brand has re-envisaged it as an elegant, versatile and essential item for a modern rakish
Walker Slater Stores
Walker Slater, Grassmarket, 16-20 Victoria Street, EH1 2HG, Edinburgh
Walker Slater, 114
Brunswick St, G1 1TF, Glasgow
Walker Slater, 845 Fulham Road, SW6 5HJ, London
Walker Slater, Covent Garden, 38 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AA, London