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A Brief History Of Scottish Cashmere Brand Johnstons

Picture of Tori Chalmers
Updated: 8 August 2016
Any serious cashmere enthusiast is aware of Scottish cashmere pioneers Johnstons of Elgin. With a rich history dating back all the way to 1797, it is no wonder that this luxurious brand has made its mark on the world. For over 200 years, Johnstons has dominated the wool industry. Times may have changed, but throughout the years, their craft has remained the same. It’s not a brand; it’s a legacy.

What started off as a mill for tobacco and oatmeal has turned into one of the most renowned cashmere houses. Today, these fine cashmere connoisseurs have a weaving mill in Elgin and a knitting mill in Hawick. The Elgin mill is the last vertical woollen mill to exist in Scotland and has withstood the tests of time since 1797. Not only that, Johnstons is the only mill left out of the Scottish mills to take a raw fibre and carry it through its transformation into the final result.

Cashmere is a lavish fibre that comes from finely combing the underbelly and guard-hair of the elusive Cashmere goat. Johnstons source the best cashmere from Mongolia, Afghanistan, and China. Their lambswool comes from Australia. Once it arrives in Scotland, the Johnstons artisans begin the metamorphosis. This process of nearly 30 steps (dyeing, blending, spinning, weaving, warping, and knitting, to name a few) has been passed down through the generations.

By the end, the fibres are transformed into arguably, the softest cashmere and knitwear around. Johnstons have a colour palette of over 6500 shades. Many of the shades created in 1856 are still used to this day. Since its conception, Johnstons products have been rinsed with Scottish river water. This pure elixir ensures that the fabrics are silky to the touch.

It wasn’t until the 1860s that Johnstons started exporting to Italy, France, South America, Japan, and then eventually to America. Fashionistas from far and wide adored the high calibre cashmere, fine woollen cloth, knitwear, and accessories. Johnstons’ pieces became so iconic that Vogue made a guest appearance at this Scottish powerhouse in 1965.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Johnstons of Elgin will never cease making history. In 2008, they won the Scottish Textile Brand of the Year. 2013 was definitely one for the history books. They received a Royal Warrant from HRH The Prince Of Wales for providing Estate Tweed cloth to the Royals. Additionally, these cashmere kings supply to top notch couture houses such as Chanel, Burberry, and Hermés.

Next time you see, feel, or wear a Johnstons of Elgin product, appreciate the craftsmanship, the heritage, the love, and even the great Scottish water that has gone into creating such timeless pieces.