Royal feathers for Hawick company with backing from Prince of Wales

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A HAWICK mill has put a feather in its cap after securing the backing of the Prince of Wales, writes Bob Burgess.

Bosses at knitwear specialists Johnstons of Elgin have confirmed that the company has been granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment to the Prince of Wales.

And that means the company can display the famed Three Feather Badge of the prince at its mills in Elgin and Hawick.

The warrant from the prince is for the supply of woollen goods. Managing director Nick Bannerman commented: “This is a singular honour for the company, and is in recognition of the supply of Estate Tweed fabrics to His Royal Highness over many years.”

James Sugden OBE has been a company director for 26 years and has overseen the design, development and production of the award-winning cloths.

Mr Sugden told us: “I am delighted for all our staff that our efforts in manufacturing specialist tweed fabrics, almost these days a lost art, have been recognised in this way.

“I learnt a lot about this trade from our former and late chairman, Ned Harrison, under whose guidance I worked for many years at Elgin.

“We always knew that making Estate Tweeds was a somewhat quixotic pursuit, very demanding to meet the approval of the estate owners and often not for large orders.

“But this trade is in our veins, and it has been good that His Royal Highness Prince Charles, who understands so well the importance of the wool industry, has granted us this appointment.”

Between Elgin and Hawick the company employs around 800 people. It can trace its history back to 1797 when it was founded in Elgin.

The company set up in Hawick 29 years ago with a workforce of eight which has now risen to 250.

The company is the only one in Scotland to take cashmere from fibre to finished garment, and London customers include Harrods, Liberty, Fenwicks and Selfridges.

In May last year Johnstons opened its new cashmere visitor centre at its Eastfield Mills in Hawick.

The centre boasts 3,600 square feet of retail space together with information displays featuring the company’s history.

Visitors to the centre can take a tour of the Eastfield Mills to see production in process.

In September last year, Johnstons revealed record turnover and a record profit for the year 2011.

Turnover topped the £50million mark for the first time – up 9 per cent on the previous year. Profits were up almost a quarter to £2.85million.

At the time managing director James Dracup said they had invested heavily in Elgin and Hawick and stressed the value of innovative products designed and made in Scotland.

But he warned 2012 would be a difficult year because of economic uncertainty and a difficult consumer marketplace which was impacting in the USA and Europe.