Johnstons of Elgin for British Textile Week
For more than 200 years Johnstons of Elgin has worked with the world’s finest natural fibres, specialising in luxurious Cashmere and fine woollens. The family owned company, established in 1797, marries its rich Scottish heritage with a commitment to innovation to bring its customers the highest quality products that are made to last for more than a lifetime. Inspiring designers and highly skilled craftspeople remain at the heart of all they do, while a focus on sustainability carries them towards a bright future.
Johnstons of Elgin – visual board by UKFT
WATCH: Interview with Simon Cotton, Alan Scott and Greg Rorison
Simon Cotton is CEO of Johnstons of Elgin, the largest employer in the Scottish and UK textile industry. He is joined by Alan Scott (Creative Director) and Greg Rorison (Sales Director, France). In this interview for British Textile Week, they discuss what makes Scottish cashmere special and how the company’s reputation for the highest quality of product manufacture and design has enabled them to conquer the international luxury market, from France and Italy to Japan, Korea and the USA.
Timeless luxury, made in Scotland
Innovation has always been a driving force for Johnstons of Elgin. James Johnston brought the first bale of Cashmere into the UK in 1851 and quickly developed a system for the mechanical processing of the fibre, many decades before other British mills. The company continues to champion new technology, such as state of the art software to transfer hand-drawn designs onto digital files, allowing the most detailed of patterns to be woven into fabric. A commitment to innovation has allowed Cashmere and Merino Wool products to be produced in feather-light weights, establishing Johnstons of Elgin as a brand for all seasons.
The exquisite craftsmanship synonymous with the brand is the result of more than two centuries of experience, and many of the skills and techniques used have been passed down through generations. Some of the more than 7,500 dyes in the Johnstons of Elgin colour library were developed as long ago as 1856. Around 30 different processes are involved in transforming raw fibre into the highest quality products, and it all happens in the heart of Scotland. The company’s Elgin site is the only vertical mill in Scotland, meaning everything from dyeing and blending to spinning and teaseling happens in one location. Knitted garments are manufactured at the company’s Hawick mill in the Scottish borders where innovative Whole Garment Technology allows many of the products to be made entirely seam free, while other items are finished by hand using traditional methods.
Johnstons of Elgin hopes its commitment to sustainability will allow the firm to continue their success for another 200 years. The company is proud to work with natural, renewable and biodegradable fibres and works hard to reduce its environmental footprint. Garments made from natural fibres shed less fibre during washing, which will then naturally biodegrade rather than accumulating in the ocean for many years. Johnstons of Elgin is a founding member of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), working exclusively in Mongolia to restore grassland and ensure the wellbeing of animals and livelihoods of herders. The company also supports the Australian Merino Wool growing industry and uses Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) wool for some of its products. Scotland’s free-flowing soft water allows fewer chemicals to be used during production and by the end of 2019 Johnstons of Elgin will be using 100% renewable sources for their energy.
Read more about Johnstons of Elgin’s latest sustainability project – Every Yarn – here.
The company remains proud of its extraordinary Scottish heritage, often taking designs from archives and reimagining them in contemporary products. As Royal Warrant holders, Johnstons of Elgin understand that some processes are better left untouched, but balance this with a thirst for innovation. With a growing retail presence including stores in Elgin, Hawick, Edinburgh, St Andrews and London, the company is focused on producing timeless, luxury products of enduring quality and beauty. Johnstons of Elgin honours its rich history while embracing its exciting future.
UKFT’s British Textile Week is a digital showcase of the craftsmanship, imagination and innovation of the UK textile industry.