Johnstons of Elgin are a quintessentially British brand that are the epitome of heritage style. Founded in 1797, it is one of the few remaining vertical mills in the UK still carrying out all the processes from raw cashmere and fine woollen fibres right through to the finished product.
After 27 years at the top of his industry, Alan Scott joined Johnstons earlier this year as Creative Director. A key player in launching Donna Karan Menswear, he also has vast experience in America, Italy, Japan and UK. Inspired to join the company because of its incredible potential and track record, he continues to steer the company in a successful fashion forward direction. Alan talks to The LuxPad about what it takes to keep tradition alive yet remain relevant, and what he thinks is the key to being an expert…
How did you begin your career at Johnstons of Elgin and what initially inspired you to join the company?
I was inspired to join the company because of its incredible potential and solid track record. I don’t regard Johnstons as a career as I already have many years of international experience it is for me a natural step in what I am genuinely passionate about, developing a luxury brand.
With over two hundred years of tradition, how does Johnstons remain relevant today?
Johnstons uses its rich history and quality standards to always stay above and ahead, having broad appeal with traditional customers and modern fashion clients. Johnstons also collaborates with many top couture and ready to wear design houses constantly at the forefront of innovation.
Many of the highly-skilled workers at the Johnstons Mills have been there for many years, what do you think is the driving force behind this loyalty?
Johnstons is a third generation Scottish family owned business with a close personal touch which gives a great sense of family security and safety that makes the workforce proud to manufacture and contribute to the Scottish economy that is very rare in modern companies.
Johnstons are often described as experts in quality and craftsmanship – what do you think is the key to being an expert?
Being an expert is a journey of constant innovation and learning, embracing technology but also using all of the physical hands on skills in quality and perfection. It is an endless education that begins at apprentice level and continues at every point in the process.
Can you talk us through what a typical day looks like for you?
I manage a large team of designers who are specialists in weaving and knitwear products between two different sites.
My main activity is to direct and coordinate their activity which is then marketed and presented in our freestanding stores and wholesale clients. This involves all parts of the business from design inspiration to sample development, marketing campaigns and sales strategies all needing a coordinated direction to give Johnstons products a clear point of view for the season.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Don’t run before you can walk and be realistic.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
My career has had many challenges but always I learn from every experience having lived in New York and Milan this makes you very resilient.
Do you have a favourite ever Johnstons piece?
I am about to design it, my favourite will always be the newest one.
How would you describe the Johnstons brand ethos and how do you ensure that the creative direction of the company continues to remain true to it?
The brand ethos is always to look forward but keeping an eye on the past.
Johnstons work hard to preserve their heritage and traditional craft skills used in their manufacturing, what would you do if you could to restore British craftsmanship across the nation?
Invest in training young people to learn key skills that maintain skilled jobs at home and not sell out to offshore companies that exploit British names and heritage but don’t invest back in Britain.
Discover luxurious throws, hats, scarves, socks and more from Johnstons of Elgin now available at Amara.