ALEX Watson examines the enduring appeal of one of Scotland’s most legendary fashion brands
While comfortable and cosy aren’t words usually associated with a high-end fashion brand, there’s no doubt that Pringle of Scotland is best known (and revered) for its iconic chunky knitwear. Even on the catwalk Pringle’s pieces are understated and wearable yet effortlessly stylish, which may explain this two hundred year old label’s perpetual popularity.
Founded in 1815 in Hawick, Robert Pringle first went into business making hosiery and underwear before producing cashmere in the 1870s. Austrian designer Otto Weisz came on board in the 1930s and dreamed up both Pringle’s famous twinset and its signature argyle pattern. These were an instant hit both close to home and further afield, with everyone from the Duke of Windsor to film stars Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly seen sporting Pringle pieces.
Many strongly associate Pringle with the game of golf, so it comes as no surprise that between 1964 and 1967 the brand sponsored a short-lived golf competition known as the Pringle of Scotland Tournament. In the 1980s and 1990s this affinity with sport and leisure was revived, with the label sponsoring top golfers of the time, including Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo.
While the turn of the new millennium sadly marked the end of production in Pringle’s Hawick factory after 185 years, 2000 was also the year that Pringle of Scotland re-established itself as an international luxury fashion retailer. The label debuted on the catwalk at London Fashion Week in 2002 (at the tender age of 187) and the world caught its first glimpse of Pringle’s take on high fashion. Their models were clad in everything from knee-high golf socks to argyle-emblazoned hot pants and the collection went down a storm with the fashion industry.
Since their sensational comeback, Pringle has consistently produced stylish collection after collection, with high-profile advertising campaigns featuring the likes of Tilda Swinton, Daisy Lowe and Pixie Geldof. The label’s most recent creative directors are all alumni of rival luxury fashion brands such as Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Balenciaga, proving once and for all that Pringle is a serious contender in today’s industry.
Despite its grand age, the company is forward-thinking when it comes to technology and innovation within the fashion world. A key part of Pringle’s 2015 autumn/winter collection was the use of 3D printed fabrics, a bold innovation for a company so embedded in its heritage.
It seems that constantly looking to the future while never forgetting its humble beginnings in the Scottish borders has been a recipe for success for Pringle of Scotland. The brand is in an entirely unique position as both an important part of Scotland’s fashion history and a guiding light for the future of the industry worldwide.