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Q&A with Alan Scott, creative director of Johnstons of Elgin

Blog • 07 November 2019

Cashmere is the ultimate luxury. And cashmere slipper socks, or home socks as they are sometimes known, are a little thing that can add a lot of comfort. But what makes cashmere so special?  Johnstons of Elgin has been crafting garments in its Scottish mills for over two hundred years. Alan Scott, the creative director for Johnstons of Elgin, talks about the everlasting appeal of cashmere, the history of the brand and his role in the company.

What is your background and how did you become involved in Johnstons of Elgin?

I have a lot of experience with heritage brands in the luxury industry, so it felt like it was a good fit.  I’ve been with Johnstons of Elgin for almost four years. It felt like a start-up in many ways, it has 220 years of heritage, but totally open to new ideas, new technology and innovation. I couldn’t believe how many opportunities there were. I inherited 20 designers, and we have been on an amazing journey, blending craftsmanship and innovation in exciting ways.

How have you made your stamp on the brand?

It’s about looking at all the fantastic potential and the ingredients, and Johnstons of Elgin has so much experience working with high-level luxury and couture brands in the world; designers who only work with us because they know they can get that level of quality and product working with Johnstons of Elgin. It’s about elevating Johnstons of Elgin to become a benchmark of luxury. What we mean by luxury is the best craftsmanship creating the highest quality products.

There is a huge focus on heritage and craftsmanship…

Our incredible history and provenance are cultivated in 220 years of skill, this our USP. We use our textile archive to inspire new designs using technology and innovation to create relevant designs for today’s customer.

Black and white photo of man with glasses

Alan Scott, Johnstons of Elgin

Classic style and materials don’t go out of style…

Absolutely. They are the foundation of all brands, and that is what gives consistency and longevity. It’s a concept that we call ‘slow luxury’, a luxury that permeates forward. It’s something that doesn’t change overnight but has this consistency and level of quality that is always benchmarked against. Seasonally, you have things that you are trying to create and explore, but the baseline of the company is in its benchmark quality and in the things that they have always done.

What qualities and properties does cashmere have that means it has been used as a luxury product for centuries?

We use the finest cashmere. In all of the supply chains that we use (from Mongolia, China and Afghanistan) we are constantly sourcing the best level. We are receiving the fibre into Elgin in raw cashmere bails that are then washed, spun, dyed, combed and carded. The whole journey is really from goat to garment.

The quality is due to the length of the hair and the fineness of the fibre. It’s breathable, it has performance factors, it’s really warm, and it’s very light. If you keep cashmere correctly, you can wear it for years. It’s made to last. Also, you can have very fine cashmere garments, which will be as warm as heavier garments. That is the beauty of cashmere, the lightness and the fineness.

People are very passionate about their cashmere…

It’s a very emotional product. We have customers that fall in love with it, and it’s very coveted. For some people, it’s very personal. They wear cashmere because they can, they love the way it feels, there’s a real emotional connection. Some people are truly cashmere connoisseurs, they understand what it’s all about and they come back because of that.

A wall of spools and yarn in a factory

A glimpse into Johnstons of Elgin’s factory

The idea of cashmere sock is such a luxury, and giving that to someone is quite emotive in some ways.

Absolutely. Especially our female customers tend to gravitate towards that; it’s something that connects them personally to the product and there aren’t many things that do that on the market.

Is that your definition of luxury? A personal connection to an item?

I think there is a personal connection to anything luxurious. There are so many different ways that you can define it. Luxury is something that makes you feel good. It makes you feel that you have something that has an amazing provenance or story, an item that performs well or is the best. Cashmere is an embodiment of luxury.

stack of cashmere slipper socks

How do you look after your cashmere? 

When you are caring for cashmere, you need to wash it. Cashmere performs the same as human hair, it’s not like wool. It needs to be conditioned and taken care of in the same way. That is why you use a very eco-friendly, pH shampoo. Also, storing it correctly. Keeping it in plastic and drawers, trying not to let it hang, as it can distort. Keep it dry, flat and in a breathable package, and somewhere that isn’t too humid. And of course, keep it away from moths, as they love cashmere.

Finally, who would you buy cashmere socks for?

Friends and family. I think cashmere socks are the perfect Christmas gift, and all of my circle would thoroughly appreciate them. It’s not a throwaway thing. It’s a really meaningful, personal gift for Christmas.

Shop the London Sock Company cashmere collection here.

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