For our Autumn Winter 18 men’s knitwear collection, we collaborated with Scottish manufacturers, Harley of Scotland, to create to a capsule of three jumpers. From seam-free knitting techniques and ethical production to being a small, family-run company, we talk to Susannah Murray, Sales Director and granddaughter of Harley’s founder.
Tell us a bit about Harley of Scotland’s history…It was established in 1929 by my grandfather – Peter Harley Buchan – whose early background was in the fishing industry. He was a creative personality who found a means to combine his interest in art and design with his love of machinery and found the perfect marriage in knitwear design and production. He specialised first in hosiery manufacture then Fair Isle knitwear for the domestic UK market. In the late 1960s he was joined by my father – Adam Harley Buchan – who commenced exporting to North America and Japan in the early 1970s; established our seam free manufacture in 2001 and built the company to what it is today.
What’s it like to work with such a tight-knit (pun-intended) team?We couldn’t do what we do without the skill, flexibility and knowledge of our staff. We have a fantastic team of workers who work hard and are long standing employees. They are all trained in more than one area of the job and can adapt and be flexible. Often you will find our management team working on the factory floor too - it’s the foundation of our work and that knowledge is critical to the success of the company.
Harley is a pioneer of seam-free knitting, what are the advantages of this?We have worked in flat bed tubular seam free whole garment knitting since 2001 when it was in its infancy in the UK market. It is a fantastic technology which affords the means to make a whole garment on a knitting machine with limited fibre waste and at a highly competitive price point – especially in natural fibres which are the only fibres we use.
Harley describes itself as an ethical production – can you tell us about this and the type of yarn you use?As the bulk of our production is in seam free whole garment knitting this in itself is ethical manufacture as there is limited waste in the manufacture of our products. We order yarn as required; our products are forward order only so we don’t carry stock and therefore generate surplus. Our yarns are spun in Scotland and Italy and ethically sourced – fully compliant with all global requirements for fibre; dyeing and spinning.
What makes the Harley factory different to other knitwear factories?We are extremely responsive to new technology and regularly update our machinery and CAD systems. We are also very involved with marketing the business and products we offer. As we are relatively small, we are flexible and can offer low minimums but equally higher volumes and we are reliable and timely on deliveries.
Next year, Harley will be celebrating its 90th birthday. What have been Harley’s biggest and proudest achievements to date?Our greatest achievement has been the continuation of the company values as set up by our founder Peter Harley Buchan in 1929. We are a third generation family owned business and have worked hard to align ourselves with the initial values of quality; reliability and heritage as set up almost 90 years ago. Textiles in the UK is a demanding business and it is a testament to the drive and shared values of our team that we are still here and thriving today in a truly global market.
The luxurious Jigsaw Harley of Scotland men's knits are now on sale.