Cashmere is to men’s clothes as the martini is to cocktails: smooth, sophisticated and guaranteed to warm your cockles. The raw fibre comes from the Asian cashmere goat, but it takes its name from Kashmir in northern India. It came to the UK at turn of the 19th century. Noticing its superior softness, British explorers began to return home from India with bales of raw cashmere, prompting Scotland’s woollen mills to experiment with the stuff. Johnstons of Elgin is one of those mills, founded in 1797 on the banks of the river Lossie by Alexander Johnston. He spotted an opportunity to capitalise on Europe’s growing demand for the luxury fibre, creating a business that was to play a major part in putting the Scottish textile industry on the map.
Today, Johnstons is still going strong, weaving and knitting world-beating cashmere for some of the most elevated designer brands. It occupies the same mill in Elgin and a second in Hawick, employing over 1,000 craftspeople who weave over 23,000 metres of superfine cloth a week.
The company also creates its own ready-to-wear collections, using fine merino and cashmere woven at the Elgin mill. Despite being a ‘traditional’ maker, Johnstons keeps a close eye on the future, and has gained a cult following among menswear aficionados for its innovative approach to both fabric and clothing design. True to form, the Autumn Winter ’18 collection is contemporary and clean, filled with chic knits and sleek outerwear.
As both a mill and a brand, Johnstons can innovate in its own collections, too. This season’s signature pieces showcase new materials for Johnstons, including Althlux Life cashmere; a high-performing cashmere cloth worked into a versatile range of luxe sportswear. There’s also New Tradition, a capsule collection of knits and layering pieces that reinterpret traditional weaves and patterns for the modern metropolitan man.
Few British brands today own a more complete story. Johnstons is at once a heritage-rich vertical manufacturer and a directional British designer, making staples that are both refreshingly simple and truly luxurious. We like to think of it as the king of Scottish cashmere.
Visit Johnstons of Elgin at 77 New Bond Street, W1S 1RY
The Jackal’s pick:
Shawl collar wool and cashmere cardigan
£499, shop now
Dark camel cable-knit cashmere scarf
£249, shop now
Handmade charcoal Merino and cashmere peacoat
£1,975, shop now