Scottish design house
Established: by Robert Pringle in Cross Wynd, Hawick, Scotland in 1815 and known worldwide for quality sweaters. Company History: Acquired by Dawson International Plc., 1967; segued into luxury goods market and aggressively opened retail shops, 1993-94; scaled back and converted stores to franchises, 1995; incurred substantial losses and reduced workforce, 1997-98; sold to S.C. Fang & Sons Company, Ltd., Hong Kong textile group for $8.8 million, 2000; Kim Winser brought in as CEO and new diffusion line introduced, 2000; began opening retail outlets, 2001-02. Company Address: Glebe Mill, Noble Place, Hawick TD9 9QE, Scotland, UK. Company Website: www.pringle-of-scotland.co.uk .
On PRINGLE of SCOTLAND:
Houck, Catherine, The Fashion Encyclopedia, New York, 1982.
O'Hara, Georgina, The Encyclopaedia of Fashion, New York, 1986.
Richards, Amanda, "The Knitwear Brand that stretched Too Far," in Marketing, 6 April 1995.
Fallon, James, "Pringle to Cut 290 Factory Workers," in DNR, 24October 1997.
Moffat, Alistair, "Sold Off to Hong Kong," in the New Statesman, 21February 2000.
"Pringle joins the fashion elite," available online at BBC News, www.news.bbc.co.uk , 21 February 2001.
"The Lion Prepares to Roar," in the Drapers Record, 2 April 2001.
Hall, Emma, "Fashion's Old Guard Aim to Generate Youth Appeal," in Campaign, 7 September 2001.
Founded in Cross Wynd, Hawick, Scotland in 1815 by Robert Pringle as a family business making hosiery, Pringle of Scotland became known throughout the world as an established brand and leader in fine cashmere and other high quality knitwear and sportswear, and a pioneer of modern knitwear technology and systems.
Although its origins were in the production of hosiery and underwear, Pringle is more well known for its particular emphasis on leisurewear and sportswear. The emphasis on knitwear as outerwear is a comparatively recent one, dating from the earlier years of the 20th century when its use by sportsmen, particularly in golf, as nonconstricting yet striking-style garments made it fashionable. Up until 1934 Pringle was known primarily as a company producing fine quality undergarments and a limited selection of knitted outerwear. In June 1934 the appointment of Otto Weisz, an Austrian refugee, as the first full-time professional designer to work within the British knitwear industry, brought a revolutionary attitude to the importance of design and a flair for color to an insular industry. Weisz's designs included the concept of the twinset, which became a classic. It has been said that few industries did more than Scottish whiskey and the Hawick knitwear industry to earn dollars for Britain.
Many Scottish crafts families worked for generations in the Pringle mills and a substantial investment program resulted in these factories being equipped with the latest state of the art technology and machinery, employing thousands and ranking with the most up-to-date production units in Scotland. Some of the finest fibers in the world were used, including cashmere from the mountains of East Asia, lambswool and the best quality Geelong from Australia, and the native Scottish wools, such as those from the Shetland Isles.
The men's and womenswear collections took their inspiration from the wools themselves, current color trends, lifestyles, and surroundings. These collections included patterned, textured, plain, and highly-styled garments in the latest shades to meet the requirements of an ever-changing fashion scene, and complementary woven accessories for both men and women, mainly in natural fibers. Active and leisure sportswear were of particular importance to Pringle products; the Nick Faldo Collection of knitwear and coordinates sold very well in the UK, Europe, Japan, and the U.S., as well as the Ladies Golf and sports Classic collections.
Pringle of Scotland became part of Joseph Dawson (Holdings) Limited, later renamed Dawson International Plc. in 1967. The strong international style of the company's products allowed expansion and the Pringle name was soon established in over 45 countries throughout the world. An aggressive expansion in the early 1990s took the company into a myriad of luxury products and put Pringle shops in many European outlets, and into Japan and South America. In addition, Pringle held two Royal Warrants, as Manufacturers of Knitted Garments to both Her Majesty the Queen and Her Majesty the Queen Mother. Yet the turbulent mid-and late 1990s took their toll on the venerable kntiwear producer.
The too-rapid expansion of 1993 and 1994 came back to haunt Pringle; it was forced to cut back and sell shops to franchisees in 1995. There was, however, a glimmer of hope during a brief turnaround in 1997 and 1998, only to have the company clobbered by surge in the pound's value. The weakened export market (which accounted for two-thirds of Pringle's business) forced the manufacturer to scale back operations, first through a shortened work week, then through increasing layoffs. The once mighty brand then suffered a devastating blow in 2000 when Dawson International, wanting to concentrate solely on cashmere operations, sold the ailing Pringle to the Hong Kong-based S.C. Fang & Sons Company, Ltd. Alistair Moffat, writing in the New Statesman (21 February 2000), didn't mince words, stating, "Half the workforce will go, with 140 losing their jobs and 60 being transferred to another company. That is a disgrace, and a very damaging act."
While its future seemed in doubt, Pringle rallied in the early 21st century under the leadership of new chief executive Kim Winser, formerly of Marks & Spencer. The firm was further invigorated by sales of a diffusion line launched in 2001. A company spokesperson told Emma Hall of Campaigns (7 September 2001), "The Diffusion collection has a more casual feel and will establish a new attitude for the brand, aimed at the cutting edge of the youth market." Hall commented that the knitwear producer had already made much progress, producing advertising with a "rough-and-ready appeal that would have been anathema to the Scottish knitwear house a couple of seasons ago." Though Pringle of Scotland suffered the loss of longtime workers, plant closings, and a change of ownership—the 187-year-old company more than endured, it triumphed with a new look and a broader appeal.
updated by Owen James