HISTORY OF LINTON TWEEDS
In 1912 Scotsman William Linton started Linton Mill in the Caldewgate area of Carlisle, a small city situated close to the Scottish border and near the famous Lake District.
Initially Linton employed two salesmen with ponies and traps who travelled the Lake District buying wool and selling woollen suit lengths. William Linton’s great friend, Captain Molyneux, was a Parisian couturier who in the 1920s introduced him to a dynamic young lady called Coco Chanel. This began an association which has flourished over the years resulting in the house of Chanel being Linton’s biggest and most prestigious customer.
As the years rolled on, the name of Linton became synonymous with good quality; their exquisitely designed cloths were shown often on the Paris catwalks. This led to massive business within America – the Americans being keen to reproduce the outfits shown in the Paris couture houses and in the authentic Linton fabrics.
During the late 30’s and throughout the 50’s Miss Agnes Linton, daughter of William, sailed to the USA first class by ship with her cabin trunks packed with samples. Apart from the war years, business in America was so good that the Linton Collection was only shown to a privileged ten to twelve customers each season.
Miss Linton was succeeded by George, her nephew, in the mid 1950’s who, along with assistance from director Des Matthews, managed to keep the Linton success going. However, by the time Leslie Walker joined Linton’s in 1963 as manager and designer a number of things were conspiring to damage Linton’s business:
- Linton was still producing 100% woollen cloth, as were hundreds of firms in Scotland and Yorkshire. Competition was strong with larger firms being able to produce cheaper goods.
- With our success in America, 85% of all our production was being exported to the U.S. – all our eggs were in one basket. This became catastrophic in 1967 when union difficulties along 7th Avenue helped to close most of Linton’s customers.
- The market in Paris (Robert Burg, an agent and friend appointed in 1954, ran this market until his retirement in 2000) was prestigious but not lucrative. The couture houses such as Chanel would order a series of 6-yard lengths but only use a few.
George Linton retired, Des Matthews was hit with personal tragedy and left, leaving Leslie Walker as the only working director and designer.
Linton had a loyal and hard-working labour force, but closure with the loss of in excess of 100 jobs looked inevitable.
The Linton Family appointed Leslie Walker as Managing Director in 1969 and asked him to revive the business. It was the start of a new era.
First, he set about making changes to the product; it would need to be more unique:
- New exotic yarns using man-made fibres were introduced to enhance design.
- Linton’s would buy machines to make their own fancy yarns.
- New yarn dyeings were introduced and colour ranges extended.
- The traditional piece-dye fabrics were redesigned and reduced in weight.
Next it was marketing:
- A ground-breaking trip to Japan found the Japanese very interested in fabric used by Chanel.
- Visits to America and Canada were made in search of new customers to replace those now out of business.
- The long association with the loss-making couture business in Paris began to bear fruit as the fashion houses began to introduce ready-to-wear collections……a good time to introduce our new style collection.
- A good choice of appointments to be Linton’s agents included Taka Uchinuma in Japan and Russell Farley in London.
New markets were found quickly, the new more innovative collection was well received and our reputation for good quality remained intact.
Over the next few years Linton’s customer base grew rapidly culminating in the prestigious Queens Award for Export Achievement in 1991.
Leslie’s wife Carole, who had been made a director in 1976, saw her long held desire to create a retail outlet and coffee shop become a reality. A purpose-built fabric showroom and “Bobbin” coffee shop were built beside our mill in Shaddongate and officially opened by Jean Muir on April 5th 1993.
In 1994 Leslie Walker moved into semi-retirement, with his eldest son Keith taking over as Managing Director and Rob Irvine leading the designers, who continue to do a superb job giving today’s couturiers what they want.
As the company has progressed so too has our product range, and we now offer two collections.
To go with our high-end Linton collection we introduced Linton Direct in 2010. Linton Direct is marketed through the internet on a retail basis and offers everybody the chance to buy the beautiful fabrics that we produce.
The collections are constructed with unique yarns from all over the world, woven in limitless patterns, finished in a vast variety of techniques and produced by the best staff in the business. We have developed a product to be proud of.
Our international reputation has continued to grow through trade exhibitions at Premiere Vision in Paris & attending shows in Tokyo, Milan, Munich, New York, and Seoul.
Relationships particularly with Taka Uchinuma in Tokyo but also K.D Park in Korea, Run Unison in China & Giorgio Olivero in Milan ensure the world’s top fashion houses have access to our fabrics.
In 2012, we proudly celebrated our centenary.
Gaining 100 years of History is a great achievement especially in the textile and fashion industry. This monumental occasion has been suitably marked by celebrations and given us the opportunity to reflect on our progress and plan for the future.
A big part of these future plans will be the further development of Linton as a brand. Continued collaboration with our fashion design customers will see more joint garment labels and hang tags telling the consumer about “THE WORLDS MOST INNOVATIVE FABRICS”, while we are taking steps to improve the way our website and social media help spread the word.
Watch this space for our brand development.
Despite a challenging economic climate our business is still thriving, so it is important to ensure the continued investment in our mill – and our highly skilled and motivated staff.
This Story is just beginning!