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Shopwatch: Johnstons of Elgin's London flagship

Johnstons of Elgin has brought more than a touch of its Scottish mills to its new London flagship.

The 200-year-old, family-owned cashmere and woollen manufacturer has three stores in Scotland, one each at its mills in Elgin and Hawick, and another in St Andrews. The new store on 77 New Bond Street, which opened on December 7, is its first south of the border.

Set over five floors, the 2,480 sq ft flagship houses retail space on the ground and lower-ground levels, while a showroom area and offices will open on the upper floors in the spring.

The retail floors, designed by Checkland Kindleysides, are an homage to Johnstons’ history and heritage. A herringbone runner made by workers at the Elgin mill extends the length of the ground floor – which is dedicated to women’s accessories and knitwear collections – and flows through a hole in the floor at the front of the store as though its is still being woven.

Around the sides of the store, merchandise is hung on what look like warp threads on the loom. An inspection table with a magnifying lamp allows customers to examine the quality and knit of the garments, just as workers would at the mill.

Elsewhere, found objects, artefacts and images take shoppers on a journey through Johnstons’ heritage. A teasel display highlights Johnstons’ use of this plant to brush the surface of its cashmere. A pistachio bonsai near the cash desk references a tree in the grounds of the Elgin mill that grew from a pistachio seed transported to Scotland in a hessian bag of cashmere in about 1890.

Downstairs in menswear, the herringbone runner drops down through the hole from the floor above, and is wrapped around a loom beam.

Subtle changes in this space provide a more masculine feel. For example, one wall is concrete and the colour palette features more grey and dark blue, in contrast to the cream upstairs. The lower-ground floor also provides a showcase for the brand’s cloth story, including swatch samples and its royal warrant.

Johnstons has no plans to open more retail stores in the UK – although it will look at opportunities to expand internationally next year – so the London flagship is a statement about the brand, and brings its history, aesthetics and values together in one place.

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