Begg yarn ayr

 
Begg & Co is not in the most prepossessing location. Ayr is far from a glamorous location anyway, but the factory itself is down a side street, opposite several blocks of council flats.

Still, that’s often the way with British factories. Mackintosh is in the middle of an industrial estate, as is Turnbull & Asser. Only the really old outfits (such as Robert Noble) get away with prime locations.

Inside, Begg is also a weaving factory much like the others we have reported here – Loro Piana, Pennine, Vitale Barberis and so on. There are the same, or very similar, spinning machines, warping machines and weaving machines: all large, all fast, all noisy.
 

Begg warping Begg scarf factory Ayr2 warping

 
But there are one or two processes that are unique to Begg. And overall, it was interesting to see a weaving facility (the only one at this scale) that focuses solely on scarves.

One of those processes is the milling that we showed in the video last week. It’s one of the stages that goes into the ‘ripple’ finish that is quite distinctive of Begg. It’s a finish that’s often used on luxury scarves, and personally I’ve never liked it, but actually the Begg version is very handsome: subtler and wavier. Worth a look the next time you see a Begg scarf up close.

Another process worth highlighting is the way the ultralight ‘Wispy‘ scarves are woven. The cashmere is so fine (five miles go into every scarf) that it would normally snap in the weaving machines. But Begg use a patented process to combine the yarn with Keralon, a synthetic material that strengthens it, and then dissolves when the cloth is washed.
 

Begg scarf factory Ayr

 
Not many people knew the name Begg five years ago. It was a top-end manufacturer, but virtually all for third parties. It made for some of the top couture houses in the world (those we respect for quality, importantly) but other than that just had a small label called Alex Begg.

Like many of the best makes (Drake’s, Bresciani etc) the company decided it wanted to launch its own brand, and so created Begg & Co, with new branding and new collections – the men’s by Michael Drake.

The first collection was shown here on Permanent Style, and it was interesting the two directions this took. One was to expand the range of male colours available, into some much more interesting, muted tones. It also applied these tones to ranges such as the lightweights and the Nuance, which had just been seen as women’s lines before.
 

Begg warp Begg scarf factory Ayr2

 
The other direction was to create more casual scarves, specifically by washing them after they had been finished. This was the idea of Ann Ryley, who joined four years ago (from Drake’s).

Any woven product goes through rounds of washing (wet finishing) in order to soften it. This leads to a rather bedraggled effect, which is carefully ironed out through several rounds of dry finishing.

Taking that beautifully pressed product and washing it all over again puzzled many in the factory. But the slightly distressed result – particularly the washed Kishorn – has proved extremely popular.

“It was rather contrary to the traditions of the company, which had always been driving towards that perfect, silky finish,” says Ann. “But its success has made people realise the need in the market for a more relaxed, informal product.”

This is exactly how I wear it: a washed Kishorn is ideal for a leather jacket at the weekend, while the regular Kishorn is more formal and suits a cashmere overcoat during the week.

Begg looks like it has a bright future ahead of it, with a lot of support from parent company Lindengruppen and £2.5 million of investment in new machinery last year alone. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with next.
 
  Begg yarnBegg scarf ends Begg scarf factory Ayr

 

Photos: Luke Carby
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John C Vesey

Merry Christmas, Simon, and I hope Boxer Day is a delight for you. Certainly, all of your subscribers can toast you for the information and insights you have given us. May 2015 be a great year for you!!!!

John

Tdang

Hey Simon,

Hope you and and yours have had a delightful Christmas celebration, and all the best to your endeavors in 2015. Excuse me for this slight disruption: Is it possible to ask a tailor to put a wool lining inside a tie? In Vietnam, where I live, hardly any tie makers put wool lining in a tie. Shipping a well-made tie from the UK or US is possible, but tailoring in Vietnam is really affordable, so I thought I might give it a try. What do you think? Does putting a wool lining in a finished tie ruin it in anyway? Thank you for your answer!

Aidan

Hi Simon,

I have been looking for a nice scarf before the coming fall season, but as a student I have a hard time justifying the cost of a brand new one from the likes of Begg. Do you have any recommendations for other makers of similar quality that one could find at affordable prices on eBay? Most that I have found are still in the $100+ range, and I’m hoping there are some hidden gems out there.

Thanks!

Alex

This is something very interesting to see, scarves always made our look more enhanced and beautiful.

Joel

I managed to order a scarf from the factory shop for £40.

Luckily I only wanted a plane black scarf so I was “quids in”.

It’s a lovely scarf.

Anonymous

If you had to choose five scarf colors, what would they be?

Anonymous

No navy or burgundy? I’m surprised. Interesting anyway. Thanks, Simon!