For too long Johnstons of Elgin havebeen referred to by themenswearindustry as‘the 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 don’t want us to act like a start-up,”Simon Cotton,the Chief Executive, tellsThe Rake. He explains that theycannotafford to forgetJohnstons’foundation.“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 firstwasCotton’s: hisconservative business plan and leadershiphave been described byJenny Urquhart, a non-executivedirector and family member, as“transformational”. The secondwas the hiring ofAlan Scottas creativedirector.Under Scott’s stewardship, Johnstons madetheirmen’s and women’s debut at London Fashion Week in 2018to critical acclaim,andtheir linescan now be found on Harrods’revamped 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 future—and aneco-friendlyfuture at that.