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Issue 85 - Authenticity and Tradition

Scotland Magazine Issue 85
February 2016

 

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Authenticity and Tradition

Roddy Martine visits one of Scotland's most enduring family businesses.

Maintaining tradition while keeping pace with the foibles and social affectations of an ever changing world, is a remarkable achievement in itself. Seamlessly passing on the challenge through six generations of the same family can in itself only be acknowledged as a triumph.

For almost a century and a half, the family-owned firm of Kinloch Anderson, bespoke tailors, Royal Warrant Holders, kilt makers and purveyors of Tartan and Highland Dress, has resolutely remained true to its principal values, those of excellence and quality. When you visit the company's headquarters, workroom and shop in Edinburgh's Port of Leith, search On-Line, or find yourself in any of the Kinloch2 outlets in Korea, you are subliminally aware that the products being retailed are the best of the best.

And possibly contrary to initial expectations, you will also discover that Kinloch Anderson not only sells traditional tartan, Highland dress and modern Scottish clothing, but retails its own highly individual collections of stylish shirts, ties, gifts and accessories. The company even boasts its own Scotch Whiskies, premium blends, Deluxe and single malts.

It all began in the mid-19th century with a successful tailoring business run by William Anderson and his two sons. In 1868, with an upturn in demand, they formed a limited company and opened a prestigious shop in Edinburgh's George Street. By 1903, they had been invited to supply the Royal Family of King Edward VIII.

Prior to the First World War, military tailoring developed as an important part of the business, supplying officers' uniforms to all of the Scottish Regiments. In the early 1930s, William Kinloch Anderson decided to introduce ready-to-wear men's clothing. It was an innovative move for a prestigious tailor, but as other tailoring business declined, Kinloch Anderson thrived. In succession, they were granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment as Tailors and Kiltmakers to King George V, then to King George VI and thereafter to HM the Queen in 1995, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1960 and HRH The Prince of Wales in 1980.

Regular post war visits to Canada and the USA by WJ Kinloch Anderson, the fourth generation in the business, led to the establishment of a wholesale division being established to supply clothing and accessories in tartan primarily for export to North America and several European countries.

In 1979, the company was awarded the Queen's Award for Export Achievement. Then, with Kinloch Anderson (USA) Ltd established in North America, Douglas Kinloch Anderson, representing the 5th generation in the business, travelled to Japan where the men's and ladies' clothing business was expanding. This marked the beginning of a significant new phase of developing the brand with high quality licensee partners in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China where, today, there are over 350 Kinloch Anderson shops.

In 1983, the company produced its first corporate uniform for British Caledonian Airways and subsequently established a corporate identity division. Since then, Kinloch Anderson has designed exclusive tartans for, among others, Barbour, Glenmorangie, the City of Edinburgh, the XX Commonwealth Games, Loretto School, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Scottish Power and Irn Bru. They continue to work with many fine companies and organisations and “that is an important part of our business,” says John Kinloch Anderson.

In 1990, Kinloch Anderson consolidated its headquarters with production facilities and shop in Leith and, in 1998, won the Lothian Business Excellence Award for Manufacturing and Distribution.

In 2000, John became the 6th family generation to work in the business. I addition to introducing the on-line shop, he supported further expansion in the Far East with Kinloch2 in Korea, a younger man's fashion brand, and set up a Highland Dress partnership arrangement in the USA.

“When I left school and after becoming an exchange student in Australia, I worked as a tennis coach in Hong Kong,” he says. “Having obtained a Sports Science degree at Loughborough University, I followed a career in the sports industry for six years in London.”

There was never any pressure for him to go into the family business, but after a while he decided to give it a try and needless to say, rapidly became caught up in it. He has now fully justified his position as Chief Executive and clearly loves the challenge. “It is all about my family's top quality heritage brand portfolio and making it relate to the modern consumer,” he insists. “Our history is our trump card.”

At Kinloch Anderson's shop and showroom in Leith, there is a fascinating Heritage Room where you can look through a window into the workroom and see bespoke garments in the process of being made. In the showroom, there are examples of accessories including the company's Scotch whisky products, scarves, shirts and knitwear, and a recently launched range of tartan notebooks.

With parents Douglas and Deirdre Kinloch Anderson still very much in the background, John continues to develop the business both in the Leith shop and on-line to take on board the huge diaspora of Scots not in Scotland. “It's been going from strength to strength and it never stops,” he says with obvious satisfaction. “In terms of manufacturing you can see that we still use the same techniques, only our styles are now being targeted towards a younger generation.”

In her beautifully illustrated book
Kinloch Anderson Scotland – A Scottish Tradition, published in 2013, Deirdre celebrates every aspect of the company's history. It is the story of a remarkable Scots family with an uncompromising dedication to quality and detail.

When you buy from Kinloch Anderson you can be assured that you are buying Scottish haute couture at the top of the range. “Highland dress continues to evolve and Kinloch Anderson has been at the forefront since retailing began,” she observes.

Working as a team with designer Kirsty Franey, a select range of beautiful herringbone garments – the Kinloch Anderson 1868 Collection – is inspired by the company's archives and is the latest development. Understated and unashamedly classy, Kinloch Anderson's garments, from full Highland dress to a jacket or even a simple tie, stand out from the crowd. That says it all.

www.kinlochanderson.com