Pringle Clothing – Founded in 1815
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Pringle of Scotland: Brand History
2010 marked 195 years in fashion for luxury knitwear brand Pringle of Scotland, during which time they had pioneered the twin-set and held two Royal Warrants. Despite its rich history since 1815, it has not always been smooth sailing for the brand which was originally founded as a hosiery manufacturer.
An overaggressive expansion in the early 1990’s backfired as sales suffered in the oversaturated worldwide knitwear market. Efforts to boost sales, including a sponsorship deal with golfer Nick Faldo, ultimately failed. Pringle were forced to scale back operations, converting stores to franchises and reducing the workforce.
In the late 1990s there was a brief turnaround in fortunes, only for Pringle to suffer once again with a surge in the Pounds (£) value. This weakened Pringle’s export market (which accounted for two-thirds of business) forcing downsized operations through a shortened work week and layoffs. In 1999, the Pringle brand lost £10 million for the first have of the year (as reported in the Scottish Daily Record), highlighting the struggles of the historic Scottish label.
In 2000, Dawson International PLC, wanting to solely concentrate on cashmere operations, put the ailing Pringle on the market. There was rumoured interest from Gucci, Dior and Prada, but Pringle was instead sold to Hong Kong based textile group, S. C. Fang & Sons Company Ltd for $8.8 million. Half the Pringle workforce lost their jobs. In the same year, Pringle brought in fresh blood by hiring Kim Winser (formerly of Marks and Spencer) as CEO. In 2001, the brands new Diffusion line was introduced, signalling a change in fortunes for the label. Pringle looked to be back on track.
- 1815: Pringle of Scotland is founded, by Robert Pringle in Cross Wynd, Hawick, Scotland. It was one of the first luxury knitwear manufacturers of the world, solely producing knitted hosiery.
- 1870’s: Pringle becomes a luxury hosiery manufacturer and begins to knit with cashmere.
- 1905: Pringle introduced knitted garments as outerwear and created the word ‘Knitwear’ to describe it.
- 1920s: The iconic Pringle argyle pattern was created.
- 1934: Pringle appoints Otto Weisz, an Austrian refugee, as the first full-time professional designer. Weisz designs and introduces the iconic British staple, the ladies Twin-set.
- 1948: Pringle was granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment (given to those who supply goods and/or services to a royal court of certain royal personages) to her majesty the Queen Mother.
- 1953: Pringle opens a cashmere bar in Harvey Nichols selling twin-sets made popular by Hollywood icons Jean Simmons, Deborah Kerr, and Dorothy Lamour.
- 1956: Pringle was granted the Royal Warrant, as manufacturers of Knitted garments for Her Majesty the Queen.
- 1967: Pringle of Scotland is acquired by Dawson International PLC and branched into the luxury knitwear market. Expansion followed and Pringle was soon established in over 45 countries throughout the world.
- 1978: Hollywood A-lister, Richard Gere, appears on the front cover of Men’s Vogue wearing Pringle. A picture of which can be seen on Pringle’s website.
- 1981: Pringle begins a twenty year partnership with golfer Nick Faldo.
- 1990s: The brand underwent an aggressive expansion, with Pringle stores and concessions opening throughout Europe, Japan and South America.
- 2005: Pringle of Scotland hires Clare Waight Keller (formerly of Gucci) as the brands first ever creative director. This sees a landmark chapter in Pringle’s history, as the brand begins to be recognised as an international luxury fashion label.
- 2006: The first collection by creative director, Clare Waight Keller is launched.
- 2009: Artist David Shrigley is commissioned to produce an animated brand film for Pringle.
- 2009: Pringle worked with Tilda Swinton, Ryan McGinley and Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon for their 2010 collection campaigns.
- 2010: To mark 195 years in fashion Pringle launches a limited edition 195 Collaborations collection and partners with prestigious design school Central St Martins (attended by Stella McCartney amongst others) to re-establish its 195 archive. Additionally, Pringle of Scotland launches its first menswear runway show at Milan Fashion Week.
Pringle of Scotland: Luxury Knitwear
Although the company started out as a hosiery company – and remained so for almost a century – today the brand is known for luxury leisurewear, sportswear and knitted outerwear. The men’s and womenswear collections draw inspiration from the label’s rich history of utilising quality wools and fabrics. This is reflected in almost every collection.
Collections include patterned, textured, plain, and highly-styled garments in the colour trends of the moment to keep up to date with an ever-changing fashion scene. The Diffusion Collection, introduced in 2001, brought a new casual look and feel to the brand. The youthful attitude is aimed to give the traditional Pringle brand a broader appeal.
Active and leisure sportswear are of particular importance to the Pringle brand. The signature argyle pattern and non-constricting yet stylish garments make Pringle a popular choice for sports men and women, particularly in golf. The Nick Faldo Collection of knitwear and coordinates sold very well in the UK, Europe, Japan, and the U.S., as do the current Ladies Golf and sports Classic collections.
What Lies in the Future for Pringle of Scotland
Unfortunately for Pringle and its foreign owners, the brand still seems to be struggling with financial losses. The owners of Pringle of Scotland pumped another £18m into the loss-making brand in 2010, continuing in its attempt to become a Burberry-style luxury label. The accounts have shown that the Fang family had already ploughed £5 million into the brand the previous year. Additionally, Pringle reported a loss of £9.3m in the year to March 2009. The fresh investment is rumoured to be a ‘show of faith’ in the revamp plans of chief executive Mary-Adair Macaire – who joined from Chanel in 2008.
In March 2011 Clare Waight Keller, arguably instrumental in the saviour of Pringle, resigned as creative director. Credited with modernizing the brand, she transformed the British heritage label into an international brand with her modern slant on its iconic knits. Her last collection for Pringle, which showed at London Fashion Week in February of 2011, was an eclectic mix of Fair Isle cashmere with rabbit fur and leather. Keller’s departure comes just a month after a management shake up that saw Jean Fang replaced Mary-Adair Macaire as the company’s new CEO. It could be that the management shake-up is in preparation for another revamp of the brand. It certainly will be interested to see where the fortunes of Pringle will go next.