Founded in 1797 by Alexander Johnston, Johnstons of Elgin quickly became a leader in the wool industry, expanding into knitwear in the 1970s. A family-run business, it continues to be driven by tradition while adapting to change and today graces the couture houses and catwalks of Paris, London and Milan.
With a flagship store in New Bond Street in London and further outlets in Elgin, Hawick, St Andrews and Nantucket, the brand will be opening another flagship store in Multrees Walk in Edinburgh this spring.
Creative director Alan Scott, 50, talks about the brand, his role, and the latest collection which will be on view at London Fashion Week on Friday.
What’s a typical day for you?
I am based at our Hawick Mill in the Scottish Borders, however, a typical day for me isn’t based in the office. I coordinate the collection and often travel to our Elgin Mill and to our five showrooms in London, New York, Paris, Dusseldorf and Tokyo to work with our design teams.
What is your training/background?
I studied Fashion Design at Kingston University in London.
Why did you want to work for Johnstons of Elgin?
I could see a great potential in Johnstons of Elgin and an opportunity to expand the brand to the global market.
What is your aim?
To elevate the brand to a level that makes it into a British benchmark of luxury.
What’s different about Johnstons designs and products to other knitwear?
Johnstons of Elgin invest in technology and innovation with constant research into creating new products and achieving a high-quality standard.
What are the main elements of the latest collection? What are the trends in knitwear?
The latest collection, AW19/20, introduces lightweight products and technology in both woven and knitwear pieces.
It features in-season weights that make up a versatile wardrobe, and are able to serve different purposes in day-to-day life. The collection sees pieces which can be worn throughout the day and night. There are also sports inspired pieces with athlux influence, as well as some elegant timeless classics.
What challenges have you faced?
To build recognition by bringing our story to life in order to raise brand awareness within the market. Combining the history of Johnstons of Elgin dating back to 1797 with the story of the new modern collection.
What was the biggest surprise along the way?
The size of the company and that it still exists as a family-owned business. Johnstons of Elgin is the only vertical mill left in Scotland which means we manufacture from raw fibre to a finished product. In our Elgin Mill we consume in excess of 350 tonnes of cashmere and 90 tonnes of merino wool in our woven fabrics and accessories.
What is the fun part of your business?
Bringing the brand to life through our London Fashion Week presentations, our AW19/20 collection will be showcased on Friday. We are recognised by luxury stores in the UK and internationally, including Harrods and KaDeWe in Germany.
How has Johnstons evolved to changing fashions and circumstances?
We are appealing to a new customer and expanding into the international market to a customer base that appreciates our innovative pieces.
What have you learned?
That anything is possible.
Which are your most popular products?
Our signature cashmere stole is our most popular woven accessory. In addition, our innovation in whole garment technology has been very popular for seamless knitted garments.
Who are your customers?
Johnstons of Elgin customers are loyal and driven by quality. Our international customers, who travel the world with a dedication to luxury, know how to wear cashmere in a modern and effortless fashion.
Which items do you have at home from your collections?
I have many, including our classic scarves, our knitwear and tailored pieces from each of our collections. I love designing them.
What are your goals?
Our goal is to maintain a sustainable future for the company and to elevate it to a level of quality and excellence that is unrivalled in the UK.
What’s your style philosophy?
Each piece must be able to tell a story. Each style must serve a purpose and reason in order to be designed.
Where are your products made?
We weave and knit our entire collection in the UK with specialist clothing construction in Italy.
Who has influenced your style, what are your inspirations?
American, Italian and Japanese design has always been a key influence on my style. I take inspiration from quality, innovation and elegantly timeless pieces.
Johnstons of Elgin will be showing the new collection at London Fashion Week this week, Friday, 5.30pm-7.30pm. It will be opening a flagship store in Edinburgh’s Multrees Walk this spring, spread over two floors and housing womenswear, menswear and homeware