Discover Johnstons of Elgin

Chapter 2

A spirit of global adventure

1799

In 1799, Alexander Johnston invested in international shipping to ensure his wool reached distant markets.

Embracing the opportunities of the sea and maritime trade, he established clients in Canada and Jamaica. Considering himself both 'merchant and manufacturer', Alexander nurtured Johnstons of Elgin's spirit of global adventure.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1813

‘Duffles’ and ‘kersies’, usually green with a long nap, were types of woollen cloth used for coverings and linings that were much coarser than the Cashmere and Merino Wool we are renowned for today.

We began exporting these materials in 1813, with our first consignment heading to Nova Scotia, Canada, followed by the export of the same materials to Jamaica two years later.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1842

James Johnston embodied the essence of the modern entrepreneur - a concept idolised by Victorian Britain.

During the mid-1800s, he established our brand's relationship with luxury yarns - Alpaca wool in 1842, Vicuna fibre in 1849, Merino wool in 1851, and Camelhair in 1861.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1849

This year saw us receive our first import of Vicuna from Peru, sold to Johnstons of Elgin by James Jack, founder of one of Britain's most important international wool trading businesses.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1851

In 1850s Britain, the concepts of time, speed and distance had been reimagined, and technologies like the steamboat and train had established global connections like never before. At the centre of this brave new world, James Johnston and his family travelled from Scotland to London by train to attend the Great Exhibition of 1851. James was met by a myriad of textile colours and inventions as he entered 10 miles of vast, glass corridors at the Crystal Palace. His decade-long experimentation with rare global fibres was ultimately recognised with a medal for his 'Superb Vicuna Shawls'.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1851

Driven by a quest for true excellence, James sourced yarns from China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, India, Peru, and Australia alongside our native Scottish wools.

In 1851, we bought a bale of Cashmere fibre from F. Buxton of Basinghall Street, London and became the first Scottish company to weave with this precious yarn. More than 170 years later, this remains one of our most popular luxury fibres.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1851

In October 1851, we received our first delivery of Australian Merino Wool - Bales of ‘Sydney wool’ from F. Buxton of London.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1853

Our first shipment of stout plaids and tweed suits arrived in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, fulfilling the hardwearing clothing needs of the miners.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1855

Johnstons of Elgin attended the 1855 International Exhibition in Paris, France.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1880

By 1880, France was the centre of our European market with more than 20 customers, mainly in Paris. The brand was also exporting to Italy and Belgium.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1880

Setting his compass to explore further, Alexander Johnston’s son James honed his knowledge and continued investing in shipping.

He became an active director of the Elgin and Lossiemouth Harbour Company. In 1867, Japan reopened its borders to American and Western trade allowing Japanese clients to experience our Scottish plaids, rugs, and tweeds in ‘various patterns or colours’.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1890

James Johnston’s brother Edward shared his passion for international adventure. During the 1890s, he founded Seville Football Club in Spain, which remains one of the most successful clubs in Europe.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 2

1915

Our archives show orders from the French Service D ’Intendance Francaise during WW1 for ‘French Grey’ and ‘French Blue’ cloth for French and Belgian Allied soldiers’ uniforms.

Our global outlook has continued, and in 1978 and 1994, our efforts were recognised with the Queen’s Awards for Export.

Johnstons of Elgin French Blue and French Grey cloth

1920s

Early in our history, we recognised the demands of a new generation of travellers.

Technologies such as trains, steamboats and cars offered opportunities for speed and adventure but featured chilly draughts. In 1857, we crafted a ‘Double Alpaca Railway Wrapper’ for Lord George Gordon-Lennox of Gordon Castle, a Johnstons’, and by 1910 we were designing and manufacturing Car Rugs.

Johnstons of Elgin Double Alpaca Railway Wrapper

1950s

Our Cashmere and fine woollens have made their way around the globe over the years, and one, in particular, made its way back to us after more than 70 years. During an official engagement in the early 1950s, Johnstons of Elgin presented Pattie Menzies, wife of Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, with a delicate Cashmere shawl.

Our longest-serving Chairman Edward Harrison sent the design to Australia, where it was described as ‘an article of real interest...probably the lightest ever pure cashmere made’. Dame Pattie treasured the piece, and in 2021, following her death, her family returned the shawl to us for preservation in our archives.

Johnstons of Elgin Pattie Menzies Cashmere Shawl

1978

We were proud to receive the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1978, 1994, and 2002.

Johnstons of Elgin Queen's Award for Export Achievement 1978

1980

Our Hawick Mill was established in 1980, marking our move into knitwear manufacturing. Soon afterwards, Manager and Director Jim Porteous took on a selling role, travelling to France, Belgium, Italy and the Far East to promote this new aspect of our business.

Johnstons of Elgin Hawick Mill

1997

Following a devastating flood at our Elgin Weaving Mill, we travelled to the US, Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and London, making personal visits to our partners to maintain relationships that have continued to thrive.

Johnstons of Elgin Elgin Weaving Mill Flood

2015

We have worked with natural, renewable, biodegradable fibres since 1797, and our commitment to sustainability is at the heart of our brand’s values. We aim to tread lightly and reduce our environmental footprint year on year, but we know we still have work to do.

In 2015 we helped establish the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, a non-profit international organisation working with the extended Cashmere supply chain, from herders to retailers. With a focus on restoring grasslands, ensuring animals' well-being, and securing herders' livelihoods, the SFA funds specific programmes in Mongolia to train communities and promote sustainability.

Johnstons of Elgin Sustainable Fibre Alliance

2016

Johnstons of Elgin's transition to a more integrated lifestyle brand began in 2016, cemented by our London Fashion Week debut in 2018. Johnstons of Elgin's exceptional craftsmanship continues to be appreciated worldwide.

Johnstons of Elgin London Fashion Week

2019

We established the first course in Sustainable Pasture Management, managed for us by the SFA, in 2019.

Called “Haraacai" (the Mongolian word for swallow), this course teaches nomadic herders' children sustainable herding methods. It combines modern sustainability theories with the traditional skills passed down through generations embedded within their centuries-old nomadic culture.

Johnstons of Elgin Sustainable Pasture Management Haraacai

2021

In April 2021, we were proud to receive the Queen's Award for Enterprise, for our work on sustainability.

The Queen's Awards for Enterprise is the most prestigious business awards programme in the world, and the Sustainable Development category recognises organisations developing products and services that have a positive impact on the environment, society and the economy.

Johnstons of Elgin 2021 Queen's Award for Enterprise

2022

Our Scottish heart has been combined with a global outlook from our founding. Today, we have 5 offices worldwide, and our products are sold in 65 countries.

Our exemplary relationships with our international clients, fibre suppliers, trade partners and customers remain at the forefront of who we are. As we again enter a new era where concepts of time, speed and distance are evolving, our international relations and human connections proudly embody our 225-year heritage.

Johnstons of Elgin 225 Years Logo
Discover Johnstons of Elgin

We have worked with natural, renewable, biodegradable fibres since 1797, and our commitment to sustainability is at the heart of our brand’s values.

We aim to tread lightly and reduce our environmental footprint year on year, but we know we still have work to do. In 2015 we helped establish the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, a non-profit international organisation working with the extended Cashmere supply chain, from herders to retailers.

With a focus on restoring grasslands, ensuring animals’ well-being, and securing herders’ livelihoods, the SFA funds specific programmes in Mongolia to train communities and promote sustainability.

Discover Johnstons of Elgin

Our Scottish heart has been combined with a global outlook from our founding. Today, we have 5 offices worldwide, and our products are sold in 65 countries.

Our exemplary relationships with our international clients, fibre suppliers, trade partners and customers remain at the forefront of who we are.

We work with Responsible Wool Standard Certified Merino Wool and Sustainable Fibre Alliance Cashmere to protect our environments. We proudly safeguard animal welfare, soil health, and biodiversity and promote sustainability throughout the supply chain and created the Johnstons Sustainability Award to support the no- madic culture and livelihoods of our cashmere herders and communities.

As we again enter a new era where concepts of time, speed and distance are evolving, our international rela- tions and human connections proudly embody our 225-year heritage.

Discover More

Discover Johnstons of Elgin

Chapter 1

Discover
Discover Johnstons of Elgin

Chapter 3

Discover
Discover Johnstons of Elgin

Chapter 4

Discover
View All