If you ask Archie Hume what it is he likes about William Lockie knitwear then be prepared to linger and listen because his passionate response is likely to last a while.
And don’t expect the sort of generic response you might receive from a corporate men’s fashion buyer who just happened upon a quaint mill in Hawick. For Archie growing up in 70’s Kelso in his father’s Gentlemen’s Outfitter, the intimate workings of the mills was the stuff of everyday chat on the shop floor.
William Lockie, Johnstons of Elgin, Pringle. The big names in cashmere and fine knitwear weren’t just suppliers or names on labels. They were friends, neighbours and members of the same community.
So when Archie says he chose to work exclusively with William Lockie fifteen years ago because William Lockie were one of the few mills left making high quality cashmere and lambswool then he’s probably in quite a strong position to judge.
William Lockie Cashmere
What this actually means in reality starts with the raw materials, the vast majority of which is rejected by William Lockie. The minimum criteria for cashmere of acceptable standard is the fleece harvested from cashmere goats in Inner Mongolia – already a pretty high bar – but William Lockie raise the bar and say they will only use fibres that are a minimum of 34mm in length and a maximum thickness of 16.5 micron.
This represents a tiny fraction of the harvest – the super premium – but by using only the longer, stronger, weightier fibres to spin the yarn, William Lockie form garments less prone to pilling, that drape better, last longer and retain their shape.
Archie’s top tip for gauging the quality of cashmere is to feel the weight of it. A high quality garment will have been knitted to a high tension and even a light cashmere should have substance and heft. A mass market cashmere jumper, by comparison, formed from yarn spun from short fibres, probably harvested from goats in warm climates will simply not be as soft, drape as beautifully or wear as well.
In addition to William Lockie’s insistence on fibre quality, all their jumpers, cashmere, lambswool and superfine Geelong are hand finished. This really is quite incredible and it’s worth saying again – hand finished – this means that the nine separate fully fashioned pieces (arms, front, back, collar, cuffs, etc) that make each and every one of upwards of 3,000 jumpers a week are stitched together, by hand. It is the sort of incredible attention to detail that is actually quite hard for our machine conditioned sensibilities to get our heads around.
Though it is entirely worth thinking about as you pull a William Lockie jumper over your head. It puts the price tag entirely in perspective.
All along the supply chain it’s clear to see where the money is spent and why a premium is charged for the product – which, without wanting to delve too deeply into the murky waters of clothing manufacture – isn’t always the case.
Styling and Design
As regards styling, Archie’s case is clear. William Lockie has an enduring and broad appeal. Their classic approach to cut and design means their knitwear is worn by men of all ages, everywhere.
They specialise in producing timeless, quintessential pieces and their knitwear is prized and sold by the best names on Saville Row.
In recent years William Lockie have designed styles that have a more fashion feel, incorporating zip neck sweaters and using a slimmer block to fashion garments with a longer, leaner line.
These pieces have added to the William Lockie collection and A Hume are right behind the move, introducing more, maybe younger men to the joys of good, high quality knitwear can only ever be a good thing.
Which brings us to Archie’s other knitwear tip – if you like a leaner fit then consider sizing down when buying from William Lockie’s classic range.
Finally, and a point of local pride, our lovely soft Scottish Borders water plays a key role in creating William Lockie knitwear.
The importance of the water to the Scottish Borders Knitwear Industry is two fold – initially the fast flowing rivers were a source of power for the mills but the soft water (i.e. low in calcium carbonate and other minerals) is also used to wash the woollens. An important step in the process that removes the oily coating which protects the fibres during the spinning and manufacturing process and ensures the garments leave William Lockie feeling super soft.
See the full William Lockie collection at A Hume.
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