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JustWilliam BEGG 12

SCARF ACE

We weave our way to Scotland to see how Just William’s scarves are made. There is “cashmere”, and then there is cashmere. The price can vary wildly, as can the quality. You will have noticed it is now possible to pick up inexpensive mass-produced cashmere on the high street. But within a few weeks you will want to put it down again. It will bobble and pill. It will look and feel cheap.
As with many of the finer things in life that are naturally produced – wine, steak, diamonds – the quality of raw material is crucial. And then you need experts to make optimal use of it.
We don’t believe in cutting corners at Just William. Our ethos is very simple: we go for the very best in class. That is why we have our cashmere scarves – both summer and winter weight – made by Begg & Co in Scotland, who are considered the world leaders when it comes to cashmere.
The old adage of ‘you get out what you put in’ holds true: the selection of premium yarn coupled with expert artisan handcraft makes for a product of exceptional quality. The scarves have to be seen – and felt – to be believed. So we flew to Begg & Co’s cashmere workshop on the west coast of Scotland to see exactly how they are made. Allow us to show you around…
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Spun Gold
The quality of the cashmere fibre Begg & Co use for Just William scarves is reassuringly expensive because it is without parallel. It comes from goats specially reared in the Himalayan region of Inner Mongolia that produce consistently fine and long length fibres. Short fibres are a major cause of pilling often seen in lower quality cashmere. These spools of brightly dyed yarn are stored at a precisely controlled humidity. There are approximately five miles of fine yarn in each Just William summer scarf.
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Weaving Together The Old…
Cashmere has been proudly Made in Scotland for more than 200 years. Begg & Co is a company with a fine heritage dating back to 1866. It has been present at this site in Ayr for over 100 years – and some of the machinery that is still in daily use today dates back to this time because it is still the best at what it does. They don’t make them like they used to.
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…And The New
Of course the company also continuously invests millions in modern technology too – it recently installed state-of-the-art specialist weaving equipment to remain at the forefront of design and product innovation. It is this unique blend of the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, that comes through in the hand-feel of a Just William scarf.
The True Artists Teasel
The True Artist’s Teasel
A mark of true cashmere quality is a characteristic ripple-effect finish. This is created partly thanks to the naturally soft Scottish water but also by brushing the cloth with teasels. These days most cashmere manufacturers now use metal or plastic teasels. But Just William’s scarves are brushed with specially produced teasel plant heads. They are grown in Tuscany to a precise size, harvested at a specific time of day and dried in a particular way so as to achieve the perfect finish. It is a hugely labour-intensive process, the finer details of which are a closely guarded trade secret, but the final result is worth it.
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The Human Touch
The factory is busy but it is no sweatshop. The emphasis is very much on quality not quantity. There is a deliberately unhurried air about the multi-stage production process of weaving, washing, pressing, brushing, finishing and inspecting Just William’s scarves. This is a craft. It takes time, and it takes skill. “A lot of it comes down to experience and feel, it is a very human process,” says Roan, a 19-year-old apprentice, whose job it is to examine the woven cloth and feel for any imperfections to mend. This has its uses outside the factory too. “I have a very keen eye for detail she says. I can spot a flaw a mile off.”
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The Cutting Edge Of Craftsmanship
For more than a century, Begg & Co has provided employment to generations of local people, often generations within individual families. These hands belong to Yvonne (check) who has worked at the factory for 30 years and whose sister, daughter and husband all work for Begg & Co. Many of the 100-strong workforce who help produce Just William’s scarves have been in the company for their entire working life. Two employees clocked up 40 years’ service in 2013. The company now runs an apprenticeship scheme to ensure the new generation is learning from older, more experienced hands. These are not skills you can teach quickly – they take years to learn, a lifetime to perfect.
A Label Of Love
A Label Of Love
From storing yarn at a precisely controlled temperature to pressing finished products in paper to give them a signature glossy sheen, we have seen firsthand the astounding attention to detail and the care and craftsmanship that goes into making our scarves. Manufacturing excellence like this requires dedication, devotion and years of practice. It also requires support from people who recognise such artisanship and are prepared to invest in it to keep it going. Just William is proud to work with Begg & Co to help keep them doing what they do best: making cashmere scarves.