Two hundred years ago it made cozy underwear. Fifty years ago it was dressing the likes of Grace Kelly. Today, celebrating its 200th birthday, Pringle is still going strong. We give an exclusive preview of an exhibition which is set to tour the USA and Asia. By Gillian Drummond. All photos courtesy of Royal Museum of Scotland/Pringle Scotland unless otherwise noted.
Pringle of Scotland, celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, carries a name that’s synonymous with several things. There’s golf and the Pringle branded cardigans and shirts still favored by lovers of the sport. There’s cashmere, prevalent in the knitwear company’s garments. There’s the word ‘twinset’, coined by Pringle’s first designer in 1934. And there are Stella Tennant, Tilda Swinton and Ewan McGregor, just a few of the actors/models who have fronted the brand.
Pringle began in 1815 in the small town of Hawick in the Borders of Scotland and went on to become a worldwide luxury knitwear brand. As part of its 200th year, the company has collaborated on Fully Fashioned, an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Soon to come to the USA, Fully Fashioned tells the history of a firm that began making undergarments and now has collections at the major international fashion shows. Pringle now has limited manufacturing in Scotland; in 2000 it was bought by Hong Kong-based SC Fang & Sons.
We caught the exhibition in Edinburgh. Here’s what we found out:
- After years of making undergarments and hosiery, Pringle introduced the button-up cardigan in the 1930s (below). Like its underwear, the cardi had a deep waist rib and sides that followed the contour of the body.
- Otto Weisz, Pringle’s first knitwear designer, is credited with coming up with the name ‘twinset’, describing a short-sleeved vest and cardigan combo. He is said to have coined the term after seeing twins in a pram entering a Pringle mill in the 1930s (the company provided childcare at its factories to encourage women to work).
- Actresses Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren were among the celebrities who wore Pringle during the ’50s and ’60s.
- Pringle has been supplying underwear and outerwear to the Royal Family since the 1940s. Queen Elizabeth still wears a Pringle twinset today.
- In 2010 actress Tilda Swinton – the face of Pringle since 2009 – designed a twinset for the company based on one her grandmother used to wear. It even includes darned elbows, which her gran had (see below).
- Pringle’s largest outlet in Edinburgh was the Jenners department store, which still operates on Edinburgh’s Princes Street.
- Pringle designs in the ’60s included the ‘Kildonan’, a cashmere dress modeled for British Vogue by Jean Shrimpton, and a double-weight cashmere ski sweater (see below).
- Pringle’s first women’s collection was shown at London Fashion Week in 2002, and its first men’s collection at Milan Fashion Week a year later.
- Scottish-born ballet dancer Michael Clark and his dance company choreographed and performed three short dance films for Pringle’s 200-year celebration, featuring twinsets and a golfing cardigan, among others.
- The autumn/winter 2014 collection saw head of design Massimo Nicosia collaborating with architect and material scientist Richard Beckett in a series of 3D printed fabrics and innovative new technology, including a cable-knit polo neck with nylon inserts (below).
* Pringle’s Fully Fashioned exhibition is at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh until August 16th. It is then set to tour the USA and Asia, although no dates have been set yet. For more information visit nms.ac.uk.