A Hume explore the making of luxury cashmere. We visit William Lockie to unravel the secrets of the world’s most luxurious knitwear.
In thinking about Scottish woollen mills, mythology requires us to picture a Victorian building. Set on a riverbank or lochside, a source that provides an unending supply of soft pure water. In the background the hills are grazed by sheep. Inside colourful cones of yarn sit atop frames and looms that dance and clack hypnotically. A muted, mechanical refrain unchanged for generations.
It’s a compelling picture. A world away from the digital age. And the surprising thing is how closely this mythology relates to the reality that persists in the world’s best mills. Not through any misguided attachment to the past. But as a result of a deep commitment to the highest standards of production.
Handcrafted in Scotland since 1874
In keeping with this mythology, the William Lockie mill sits on the banks of the Teviot in the centre of Hawick. A hard working, picturesque town in the Scottish Borders, Hawick has been at the heart of the Scottish wool trade since trading began.
The Lockie mill is one of the few mills that remain. Owned by the Thorburn family, descendants of Lockie himself, it has been in continuous production, in the same building, since 1874.
The Factory Floor
Behind the handsome facade there are indeed cones of yarn on knitting machines. Beautiful, soft cashmere, lambswool and geelong from legendary yarn spinners Todd & Duncan. The machines look simple. Almost old fashioned or quaint. And the feel is of having stepped back a few decades.
Knitting is a mechanical process and the skills have remained unchanged. There have been no dramatic changes to machinery since mechanisation. A few advances in the machine production of cables, ribs and superfine knitwear. But comparative to the transformations digital technology has brought in other industries the pace, in truth, the need for change is small.
It is tempting to allow this atmosphere to colour your judgement of the company. To view William Lockie as a little dusty. But that would be a big mistake.
William Lockie are one of the few surviving mills. They wouldn’t be trading if they weren’t absolutely at the top of their game.
Fine Processes and Specialised Skills
The fact is that the value here is in the skills of the people who run the mill. It may sound like a cliché but the tradition and respect for quality really is handed down from generation to generation. Long service is the norm. Husbands, wives, sons and daughters, sisters, brothers work together in the mill in a way that was once common but is now remarkable.
Making the world’s finest cashmere jumper relies on a series of fine processes carried out to the highest standard. Every step of this process from the Yarn Store to the Body Linking – the intricate hand stitching of every single garment that comes out of the mill – is performed by people who are amongst the best in the world at their jobs.
Be in no doubt that this is a truly world class operation. Not only do William Lockie make their own label cashmere, lambswool and geelong collections that retail in the finest stores all over the world. They are also a world leader in the manufacture of luxury knitwear for the most famous couture houses in the fashion industry and the most revered names on Saville Row, including Norton & Sons, and Tautz.
Business is strong.
The Secret of William Lockie’s Success
The William Lockie success story is heartening. Rachel Nuttall, Sales & Marketing Manager, daughter of the current MD, David Nuttall, and granddaughter of the previous MD, Joseph Nuttall claims it is the company’s decision to commit to quality that saved them.
Looking back, having weathered the storm it might look like an easy decision to retain standards and pursue the high end niche. But to paraphrase Harry Truman – doing the right thing is easy, figuring out what it is, is much harder.
Not all mills chose to stick to their guns. Many opted to reduce quality and pursue volume. These were not decisions taken lightly or easily and many of these mills, big names like Pringle have fallen by the wayside.
William Lockie at A Hume
We take special pride in stocking William Lockie knitwear. Fifteen years ago, Archie Hume chose to work with William Lockie.
Not only can we be entirely confident in the quality of the product but we have a very special relationship with the company. The mill in Hawick is only a few miles down the road from our base in Kelso. We share their commitment to the local community. We too are proud of their story and the courage it takes to stick to their guns.
Like William Lockie, we take pride in our commitment to quality, it’s at the heart of everything we do.
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