Growing up in Hong Kong during the British colonial era, Ronnie Chiu’s grandfather had an affinity for well-made British menswear and would often wear a Scottish tweed flat cap and English knitted shirts. His father was the same. Both would tell Ronnie that high-quality garments were worth saving for and investing in, a point proven when Chiu inherited two of his father’s Scottish Pringle sweaters. Though his father had bought them in the 1970s and worn them for over four decades, the sweaters remained in perfect condition.
In this way, Chiu also inherited his family’s appreciation of quality, and he set about finding such craftspeople as had made his inherited sweaters – the quality of which he believed was no longer readily available. He found them in Hawick, the home of Scottish knitwear, in the Scottish Borders. Craftsmen there have knitted some of the finest sweaters since the mid-20th century, though its first knitting facilities were established two centuries earlier. Using techniques abandoned by those who favour mass production, outsourced manufacturing and economies of scale, these Scottish manufacturers continue to produce the finest knitwear in the world, which explains why Savile Row tailors so often partner with them.
With that then, Chiu founded the brand Colhay’s, which works alongside the Scottish master knitters to produce garments of heirloom quality in the hopes that, like his grandfather, those purchasing Colhay’s wares will be able to pass them on to generations to come.
‘In our disposable culture of today, much of the quality in the clothes that my father and grandfather enjoyed has been abandoned in favour of things that are quick to make, but quick to break,’ says Chiu. ‘My hope is to restore the relationship that once existed between craftsman and wearer by bringing to your attention the quality, care and expertise that have gone into every stage of manufacture.’
Colhay’s has gone to great lengths to ensure that every step of its production upholds the manufacturing calibre that it has been founded upon. It even lists the provenance of much of its yarn online – a refreshing approach in an industry that is often hazy on details. For instance, the 100 per cent natural lambswool and high-quality cashmere it uses are sourced from Todd & Duncan, a specialist yarn spinner that has been in business since 1867. At its Loch Leven mill in Kinross, Scotland, the fibres are washed, dyed and spun into yarn with diligent care to preserve their integrity.
Much of Colhay’s clothing combines contemporary fits with heritage-inspired design. One standout from its autumn/winter 2022 collection is the Cashmere Belmondo Rollneck, which draws on the high-necked sweaters that actors such as Jean-Paul Belmondo often wore in films from French New Wave cinema. Another is the Cashmere Painter’s Shawl Collar Cardigan. Crafted from soft, thick, four-ply cashmere, it recalls knitwear worn by 20th-century painters like David Hockney.
Both of these items are fully fashioned: each piece is individually knitted into a precise shape and then hand-linked together to create the finished garment. The quality is emblematic of the other products in Colhay’s offering, from coats and rollnecks in superfine lambswool, to cashmere-cotton sweaters.