The Johnstons of Elgin Marvel

Johnstons of Elgin have been the pride of Scottish weaving and knitting for more than 200 years. Now they are branching out, and the luxury menswear industry is taking note.
The mill in Elgin, Johnstons' home since 1811, where fine woollens and cashmeres are wovan. (Photo by Jamie Ferguson)

For too long Johnstons of Elgin havebeen referred to by themenswearindustry asthe brand behind the brand. They have beencalled upon by monolithic high-fashion housesbecause of theirincomparable skillset in weaving and knitting the most exquisite cashmere garments and accessories. However, the tideis turningfor the Scottish companythatwas founded in 1797,survived two world wars,andprospered through potential business-ending devastations and the demands of globalisation.

Although it might look like a lot of change, I really dont want us to act like a start-up,Simon Cotton,the Chief Executive, tellsThe Rake. He explains that theycannotafford to forgetJohnstonsfoundation.Everything is designed to be incremental to it,hesays. And in doing it this way, Johnstons have cracked the code that so many family-owned heritage textile manufacturersmiss when they introduce theirown label andaim for greater contemporary relevance.

Thepast 10 years have been particularly telling, with two appointments making a difference. The firstwasCottons: hisconservative business plan and leadershiphave been described byJenny Urquhart, a non-executivedirector and family member, astransformational. The secondwas the hiring ofAlan Scottas creativedirector.Under Scotts stewardship, Johnstons madetheirmens and womens debut at London Fashion Week in 2018to critical acclaim,andtheir linescan now be found on Harrodsrevamped luxury menswear floor alongsideotherleading players in the industry.Harrods gives unbelievable credibility to any brand,and I am extremely grateful for the confidence they have shown in us,Cotton says of the partnership. Together,Cotton and Scotthave injected a new sense of modernity into the company. With investmentalso madein Elgin, the weaving mill, and Hawick, the knitting mill,Johnstons have aset-upfit for the futureand aneco-friendlyfuture at that.

    A small offering of whole-garment, ultra-fine cashmere knitwear in the Edinburgh store.


    August 2019


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