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Johnstons of Elgin A/W 2021 Collection

An interview with creative director Alan Scott

This week, Walpole member Johnstons of Elgin is presenting its A/W 2021 collection 'Tartans, Textures & Twists – A Journey through the Senses', to intimate groups of guests, with the Scottish cashmere brand's Creative Director Alan Scott providing a virtual preview of the next season's edit. To find out more, we spoke with Alan to discover the inspiration behind the new collection; how the brand remains true to its ethos of sustainability; and how to present a fashion show during a pandemic.
23rd Feb 2021
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Johnstons of Elgin A/W 2021 Collection An interview with creative director Alan Scott

What’s the inspiration behind the new Tartans, Textures & Twists collection?
In this collection I wanted to celebrate our diverse textile versatility and capability and our rich vertical heritage, inspired by our 224-year-old archive. This optimistic collection uses playful metaphors of colour, silhouette, and texture to create a world of discovery and a journey through the senses. Exploring initially with the concept of tartan in all forms: traditional, exploded, saturated colour and eclectic tartans, we also introduce our own Johnsons of Elgin tartan this season, bringing a brand identity and authenticity to our native cloth.

Colours are meaningful and carry deep, saturated hues that reference natural elements and Scottish landscapes. Intense gorse yellow, granite, heather and deep loch navy sit next to bordeaux, wedgewood, and emerald colours found in tarns and isles. Misty ombre designs evoke the stillness of glens. Further elements of soft camel, cashew, blush and grey fog blend seamlessly to ground our lifestyle and lounge edit. New tweed designs provide the urban camouflage that reference our estate tweeds and the authentic cloth that we weave and is still used to this day. At the heart of the collection is our unique yarn, vertically sourced and then produced in Scotland, creating the unique sensual touch and feel of our special fibres that are then created into timeless pieces by our skilled craftspeople. Accessories provide a clear narrative to help create the artistic elements of flair and punctuation that gravitate each group.

The look is long and languid. Layering and wrapping are key. Slow luxury and softness are reassuring at this moment in time. Personal wellbeing and comfort have a deeper meaning now, and cashmere is the fibre that expresses this in its truest essence. Our timeless direction inspires us to continue to move forward with optimism."

Johnstons of Elgin is renowned for its emphasis on sustainability. How is this collection reflecting this ethos?
We are constantly working together to ensure our actions in sourcing, development, and operations are undertaken with sustainable responsibility. We do this in the interests of our company, nation and planet, respecting our social, environmental and economic drivers, as this is both responsible and right for our community and customers both locally and globally. Cashmere is a natural precious fibre born from the earth, and as such returns to the earth. Its natural biodegradability makes it the perfect sustainable yarn. We are always reviewing our natural processes of manufacture within our mills. In finishing - from using natural teasels for decades to raise the pile on our fabrics, to the pure Scottish water from the River Lossie used in our production processes - all processes require careful management and we are ever improving and constantly evaluating our supply chain. We use seamless knitting in our Hawick factory using less waste yarn, as products are now realised in 3D before production with less prototyping and more efficient yarn usage. Our fibre is shipped by sea from Mongolia reducing our airfreight carbon footprint; in addition our normal development usually involves travel, but this collection was developed virtually in lockdown - reducing our own footprint and emission and costs - and proving we can work this way in the future.

Our social sustainability is evident in our education initiative with specialist master programmes teaching key skills to new recruits to replenish our workforce as time goes on, and continuing our tradition of quality and craft."

How are you presenting the collection this season, given the current restrictions?
I think we all crave the reveal and anticipation of London Fashion Week, and while we’d love to be able to connect in person - due to ongoing restrictions - we will take the AW21 presentation to a select, intimate virtual audience. We will premiere this season’s catwalk looks through a series of digital group calls and one-on-one discussions; being able to see the product in detail is a rare opportunity so we are excited to showcase our new AW21 season in this way.