Softest touch: Johnstons of Elgin

For more than 200 years, Johnstons of Elgin has produced the finest Scottish cashmere and wool by combining heritage, quality and innovation

Style 13 Dec 2019

Johnstons of Elgin
Aided by the neighbouring crystal-clear waters of the River Lossie, Johnstons of Elgin has been producing the finest wool and cashmere products for more than two centuries.

Ours is a world of instant access. From ordering a takeaway to booking theatre tickets – everything can be done at the click of a button. The digital age may be a marvel but it is showing signs of taking its toll on our stress levels. When life expects you to be switched on 24/7, how do you find time to take things at a slower pace?

Some of history’s greatest minds adopted a leisurely approach to life. Leonardo da Vinci famously worked at a glacial pace; taking a reported 12 years to perfect the subtle smile of his iconic Mona Lisa. Many musicians embrace the art of ‘slow practice’ when learning a new piece of music, where the tempo is played more slowly than intended to allow the artist to learn and perfect the technique.

For Scottish cashmere and fine wool producer Johnstons of Elgin, taking things slowly is a way of life. The brand’s Slow Luxury philosophy isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to a fast-paced modern world. It is a deep-rooted practice woven into the fabric of the company.

Slow Luxury, according to Johnstons, is about valuing the craftsmanship and authenticity behind every product. Each piece represents a deep dive into the company’s history, principles and commitment to quality.

Scotland’s second-oldest family-owned business, Johnstons of Elgin was set up by Alexander Johnston on the banks of the River Lossie in 1797 – the heart of Scotland’s worldfamous whisky region, which thrives thanks to the area’s crystal-clear waters. These freeflowing waters also aid the production of Johnstons luxury cashmere, vicuña and fine woollen clothing and accessories.

Sustainability may be something of a buzzword for many brands today, but Johnstons has championed environmentally friendly practices for centuries, using the abundance of natural resources on its doorstep. By keeping every stage of production in Scotland, Johnstons minimises air travel and, ultimately, has complete authority over quality. Scotland is flying the green flag for sustainable energy through the use of wind farms and hydroelectric dams. In fact, 74 per cent of the country’s electricity is derived from sustainable sources, and Johnstons of Elgin has taken it one step further by pledging to use 100 per cent renewable sources of electricity by the end of the year.

As a Scottish heritage brand, Johnstons of Elgin is firmly embedded in the local community. As well as the 222-year-old Elgin mill, it also operates a knitting mill in Hawick on the banks of the River Teviot. In both areas, it has employed many people from the neighbouring community and is committed to investing in its workers and teaching the next generation of craftspeople the savoir-faire. Not only does this keep a historic craft alive and thriving, it also secures the company’s future.

While Johnstons is proud of its roots, looking to the future is of equal importance. Slow Luxury doesn’t eschew modern sensibilities – it embraces them. In the 1850s, Johnstons welcomed with open arms the first steam train connecting Elgin to the capital. In doing so, it created a milestone by securing its very first cashmere bale from a London-based supplier. Change, after all, is inevitable. Just take it one step at a time.