A life of luxury
Alex Begg has been making scarves now for more than 150 years. From its home in Ayr, Scotland, the company today produces only the most luxurious cashmere products for the Begg & Co brand and the world’s best known fashion houses
In the late 1800’s, the industrial Scottish town of Paisley was a focal point for the country’s weaving industry, a fact that saw its name leant to the iconic pattern still sought after today. It was here, in 1866, that Alex Begg founded his company, making hand-loomed shawls that were inspired by Scotland’s textural landscape, lochs and seas. The company would later relocate to the seaside town of Ayr, where it operates to this day.
At the same time as the company’s relocation to Ayr, Fredrick Louis Moorhouse and Charles William Brook were forming a partnership to manufacture woollen and worsted cloth, and it was the Moorhouse & Brook company, later Moorbrook Textiles, that would acquire Alex Begg in 1945. “From its proud Scottish roots, the company has evolved to the point where today its focus is split across two core brands, Alex Begg and Begg & Co,” explains Managing Director, Ian Laird. The former produces luxurious cashmere scarves and throws for some of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses as well as for the Begg & Co brand.
“When it comes to our fashion house customers we engage with them under our manufacturing identity of Alex Begg,” Ian continues. “Then, in 2012, we took to the decision to further leverage our assets through the creation of our consumer proposition, Begg & Co, through which we began designing and manufacturing our own unique collections. Begg & Co products have since gained strong global reach, with the degree of quality offered being such that it can be found in a number of iconic, premium department stores, from Fenwick of Bond Street and Fortnum & Mason in London, to Bergdorf Goodman in New York and WAKO in Tokyo.”
The company’s key manufacturing proposition is that, through Alex Begg, it can utilise its design capabilities, expertise and creativity to help people realise their brand ambitions. The company works with a number of leading, premium British and French fashion houses and designers, including Vivienne Westwood, who is a fantastic advocate of British manufacturing.
“Today, we employ approximately 150 people, the bulk of whom are involved in the manufacture of around 250,000 items per year,” Ian adds. “The manufacturing process itself possesses a unique balance between traditional techniques and new, innovative technology. The weaving loom contributed to the start of the industrial revolution and weaving remains the core of what we do. Technology has certainly moved on and in particular the use of various finishing processes gives the product its special characteristics and this is much more of an artisanal activity.”
Unrivalled craftsmanship is one of the foundations upon which Alex Begg has built its sparkling reputation around the world, and, as Ian goes on to reveal, the company has been more than happy to adopt new methods and techniques in order to maintain its position at the top of the high-end market. “Some of the yarns that we use are in fact inherently too fine to be naturally woven. Therefore, we couple traditional methods with a patented approach that combines a sacrificial yarn to provide enough strength for weaving, then dissolve out the artificial element, leaving us with only the very finest, woven cashmere.”
While traditionally the company’s bread and butter has been the manufacture of high quality scarves, in more recent times it has moved into interior products, launching a collection in Paris in September 2017, to much fanfare. The diversification of its offering is also set to coincide with the launch of a new website. Designed to reflect the brand’s identity, its Scottish heritage and its connection to current fashion trends, the new website will go live with Begg & Co’s Winter 2017 Collection at the forefront.
While Alex Begg will always possess a strong product focus, behind the scenes the company is increasingly focusing its efforts on improving its internal agility, responsiveness and speed to market. “We exist within an industry sector that is becoming ever more complex,” Ian states. “Whereas in the past we may have been working with just a single type of yarn, today we are proficient in around 20 different varieties, originating from a number of suppliers in more colours than ever before. With our volume of menswear, womenswear and interior products only increasing in size, it is vital that we identify the means in which we can remain the absolute best-in-class when it comes to quality.
“By building a strategic direction for the business, one which revolves around adding more capacity and capabilities in the form of infrastructure and skilled people, we are ensuring that we continue to deliver what our customers have come to expect from the Alex Begg and Begg & Co brands into the future. Our fantastic product is very much our hero, well-received in all of the markets in which it is present, and we will continue to develop our capability to deliver the quality and service that customers have come to appreciate and expect.”
Products: Cashmere scarves, wraps and throws