Exhibition celebrates women who contributed to Pringle’s success

PRINGLE’S first female designer and a model who was plucked from the factory floor are among five women celebrated in an exhibition that starts this weekend in Hawick.

From Hawick to Hollywood opens to the public on Saturday in the Borders Textile Towerhouse, having been put together by the museum and the Central St Martins College of Art in London.

The exhibition recognises Leslie Rankin (nee Brown) as the first female designer hired by Pringle in 1964 and who worked there until 1972.

A spokesperson for the Borders Textile Towerhouse said: “A graduate of Glasgow School of Art, she was instrumental in introducing hand-printed cashmere and screen printing.

“Innovative in her approach, she continuously challenged the factory workers to push the limits in knitwear production.”

The show also looks at the story of Dorothy Blakeley, who was working in the company’s trimming department after leaving school when, in 1945, she was chosen to appear in US advertising campaigns shot by Peter Clarke.

Other memorable Pringle models include local beauty queen Carol Douglas (nee Finney) who began her career as a wages clerk, as well as Hawick’s current provost Zandra Elliot.

Ann Short (nee Davidson) worked as a full-time model from 1957 to 1968, and modelled during the Queen’s visit to Hawick in 1962.

Donations of garments, memorabilia and material from the company’s archive will make up the exhibition display, beside sections dedicated to the local Pringle women and actresses, such as Margaret Lockwood, Moira Shearer and Kathleen Ryan, who were international ambassadors for the brand.

Curator of Borders Textile Towerhouse, Shona Sinclair, said: “This is a visually stunning and interesting exhibition that we are delighted to be involved with.

“The students of Central Saint Martins bring a subject with international appeal back to its roots and I am confident that it will have broad appeal to our visitors.”

The exhibition is on the back of a day held at Pringle’s Hawick base where former workers and members of the public were asked to bring sweaters, photographs and anecdotes to create an archive.

Along with archival pieces, visitors will also see multi-media and interactive presentations to illustrate Pringle’s 195-year history.

Alistair O’Neill, lecturer and senior research fellow at Central St Martins, added: “The exhibition is an opportunity to show the people of Hawick the first findings of our archive project, demonstrating that the story of Pringle is first and foremost a local one.

“We believe that the heritage of the company has a future as well as a past, so we are delighted to be staging it in the Borders Textile Towerhouse in the heart of this great town.”

Scottish Borders Council executive member for culture, sport and community learning, Councillor Graham Garvie, said: “In these challenging times it is a singular achievement to see Hawick taking centre stage to present a major exhibition celebrating textiles and knitwear so relevant to the town and the Scottish Borders.”

Hawick to Hollywood runs until September 24. Phone 01450 377615 for more details.