Thirty years ago, deep in the Scottish Highlands, a small company was born. The idea was simple: to take that most old-fashioned fabrics – tweed – and turn it into usable and comfortable clothing for men and women.
Back then, most tweed was of the coarse and hairy variety. Walker Slater decided to explore softer tweeds: it wanted to produce clothes that were comfortable and luxurious, suitable for casual as well as formal wear. That was in 1989. Fast forward to today, and Walker Slater is one of the leading pioneers in tweed production worldwide. In addition to its flagship store on Edinburgh’s famous Grassmarket, it has opened branches in Glasgow and London’s Covent Garden and Fulham, and is looking to expand to bigger London premises soon. It has just opened in Tokyo, and is already looking to expand to bigger premises there too.
The reason? It’s that tweed is booming, in large part thanks to Walker Slater. The brand has taken something traditional and breathed new life into it. ‘Tweed doesn’t have to be hairy and scratchy,’ says co-founder Paul Walker. ‘We have pioneered the use of silk and cotton in our weaves to produce much softer and suppler fabrics.’ In addition to retail sales, Walker Slater has become a sought-after wholesaler, selling both men’s and womenswear to Norway, Iceland, Austria and Sweden.
‘Walker Slater’s use of British fabrics to create beautiful finished products is exemplary and sets a standard for others to aspire to’
Quality is of paramount importance to Walker, who works closely with artisan weavers and mills in Scotland to ensure the very best standards. But this authenticity does not translate into high prices for the customer. The company prides itself on offering clothing of exceptional quality at remarkably affordable prices.
Walker Slater is a passionate supporter of British fabrics. It works with the Campaign for Wool, which was founded in 2010 to promote woollen clothing, and has HRH The Prince of Wales as its patron. Currently, only two per cent of all garments produced are made using this strong natural fibre. The campaign is in line with Walker Slater’s aims: to use only natural fibres – wool, cashmere, cotton and silk – which are sustainable, and produce garments that are long-lasting and can be repaired, rather than thrown away.
‘Our belief in the versatility of tweed has brought some prestigious partnerships,’ says Paul. ‘Most recently, we created an exclusive jacket for The Rake magazine – a leading commentator on sartorial excellence. We have also developed a bespoke tweed with Harris Tweed Hebrides for the Ryder Cup.’
Tweed is booming, in large part thanks to Walker Slater. The brand has taken something traditional and breathed new life into it.
Walker Slater’s commitment to quality, craftsmanship and contemporary design has been recognised within the industry. The company has been named Retailer of the Year in the Scottish Fashion Awards, and was Edinburgh Business of the Year in last year’s Scottish Business Awards. The Rt Hon Brian Wilson, chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, and current UK Business Ambassador, says: ‘We have a huge respect for Walker Slater and the standards it represents. Their use of British fabrics to create beautiful finished products is exemplary and sets a standard for others to aspire to’.
Walker Slater 16-20 Victoria Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2HG +44 (0)131 220 2636