UPDATE: Original article published in 2013
 
The article in the bottom of this post was originally published in September 2013, when Berk in the Burlington Arcade was closing. Ballantyne, the factory, was shutting down and Berk was the last retailer of its famous bare-finish cashmere. 
 
This post subsequently got a lot of attention and search-engine traffic when customers tried to search for Ballantyne of Berk knitwear online. 
 
We have since learnt about the recreation of that cashmere, and so inform readers about it.
 
Apparently, Anthony Stennett was asked by the then Managing Director of the Ballantyne brand, Mr Umberto Broggini, to replicate the Ballantyne range and produce 3000 pieces of cashmere for Berk.
 
Working closely with the technical team at Ballantyne he tracked down the knitters, machinists, cutters and hand-linkers to the companies where they had moved after the Ballantyne factory had closed. 
 
As you’d expect, the most difficult aspect to recreate was the finishing. The firm peachy feel, which Ballantyne has always referred to as the ‘bare finish’, is a combination of washing, steaming, boarding and drying.
 
When Ballantyne went into administration, Anthony tried to buy it, but in the end was outbid by a mid-market Italian company called Fabio Gatto. Ballantyne garments are now made in China.
 
Instead, Anthony decided later to buy the ‘Berk’ brand to sell the bare-finish cashmere he had created. He couldn’t afford the Burlington Arcade store, but he has set up an online presence at the site www.berkcashmere.co.uk
 
So, a happy finish, even if the diminishment of the Ballantyne brand is a sad one. Anthony is still working with the artisans who made the Ballantyne factory great, and customers can still buy it online.
 
More details on the product below.
 
*****
 
Original article
 
Buy the last Ballantyne cashmere ever
 
September 25, 2013
 
Despite the size of its shop front, it is easy to miss Berk in the Burlington Arcade. Yet at one point Berk owned 10 different stores in the Arcade: one sold just Burberry raincoats; another specialised in Italian cashmere. The company had outlets on Madison Avenue, Westbourne Grove and Bond Street.
 
Over the years it grew smaller and smaller as brands launched their own stores. But it has remained one of the best sources of cashmere knitwear in London, based on three brands: John Smedley (which has only one fully-owned shop), Berk (made by Barrie in Scotland, now owned by Chanel) and Ballantyne.
 

Ballantyne was one of the great knitwear brands. For some, the greatest. But the company has gone through several phases of questionable management, including briefly sharing its factory with Brooks Brothers and Zegna (that lasted three months) and being owned by the style-icon-famous Montezemolo family. Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, in his inimitable style, wrote a detailed history on ASW last May.
 
That piece was prompted by the news that Ballantyne (well, the factory, Caerlee Mills – the brand had been spun off a while earlier) had gone into liquidation. The machinery was bought and smashed up.
 
The last few hundred pieces of original-Ballantyne cashmere are therefore only available at Berk, and they won’t be there for long. Navy V-necks have already sold out.


So is Ballantyne any better than other Scottish cashmere? It is certainly less milled and more tightly knitted. To the modern man, it doesn’t feel like cashmere at all. It is dense, hard wearing and continues to soften for up to eight washes. In return for that investment of time and washing you get cashmere that barely pills (because of that lack of over-milling), and lasts for years.
 
It is expensive (from £450 to £700), reflecting the work that goes into it, and while there are crew-necks, V-necks, polo shirts and cardigans, there is only one fit (‘classic’ or, my preferred euphemism, ‘generous’).
 

That is partly made-up for by the colour range, which is vast. There are over 50 shades. Apparently Versace used to go into the Madison Avenue store each season and buy a dozen of the brightest colours; Armani went in and only bought grey and black.
 
It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the Berk stock is a slice of history and certainly worth checking out.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
49 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Phillip

Simon, somewhat unrelated, but have you ever handled the berk brand cashmere shawl cardigan? how does it compare to drakes? they look very similar

Anonymous

Simon, i am very sad to hear the news. i own a 1980s ballantyne which still looks great. What other cashmere brands do you suggest?

Anonymous

Simon, I love cashmere but have been surprised by how quickly my latest buys (despite been well taken care of) pill. I have tried NPeal, Drakes and a couple from loch leven (which seem to be the best). In your view which brand pills the least?

Anonymous

Simon, Given the cost of garments you review would you say that the profit margins are higher, lower or of a similar amount to cheaper garments?
What I’m trying to figure out is cost higher not only because of the quality , for example due to the hand made quality, but also because the producers choose to profit more.

Anonymous

Thank you for clarifying that as in light of recent scandals I have consciously begun to steer clear of “Made in Sweat Shop Factory” brands.
I appreciate someone charging more for a garment given the quality and time put into it but to have low wages and high profits margins through high pricing is something I think an increasing number of people will no longer tolerate .
Especially for branded clothes that fade in colour on their first wash or otherwise degrade very quickly.
Would be great if you could do a piece on costs, profit margins etc of the stuff you write about versus the Armanis, Boss, Versace etc .
A critical look at whether they provide value for money or just a label on a average cotton shirt !

P.S. on the same subject, as someone who has travelled to India for some 30 years ,I can remember when people in India had their clothes tailored and now ,sadly, they prefer ready made

Rups

Simon you say tailors dont drive Ferraris but here’s one who drives Porches …https://www.instagram.com/p/B21-n92IYtK/

How can you explain that?

Anonymous

very sad words:”the machinery was bought and smashed up”

Umer

I’m so upset by this. My late grandfather only bought his jumpers from Ballantyne at Berk.

I have, since my childhood, wanted to follow in those footsteps, but it is not a good time for me to go and spunk so much money on such an expensive cardigan, fresh out of uni. Distraught, to say the least.

End of a special institution. Best knitwear around, bar none.

S

Simon, did you manage to find out if they were both drakes and berk’s shawl cardigans are made by barrie? they do look incredibly similar.

Inis meain definitely produce some of drakes jumpers.

J-press shaggy dog jumpers are produced in scotland so I wouldnt be surprised if Drakes Brushed Shetland Wool Crew Neck Sweater are made by the same supplier also.

Best,
Samuel

Peter Scott

Simon Did you know that my company Peter Scott of Hawick established in 1878 still produce cashmere in the time honoured fashion? With 24 processes we hand frame (stitch for point), hand seam, link and cut the neck shape. Then wash or mill the garment using water from our own stream. Then we board the garment and inspect before sending it out, If you want to try what we call Connoisseurs Cashmere let me know. Best regards Anthony Stennett PETER SCOTT

Anthony Stennett

Hi Simon
I would like to invite you to come up to Hawick as our guest.
We will arrange the holel and transport etc.
I think you would enjoy it. We hosted John Swinney and the second ‘Textile Summit’ yesterday at our factory; all of the broder companies came. There is a real buzz about the place. Let me know.
Best regards
Anthony

Don K.

Attn: Anthony Stennett of Peter Scott

Very happy to know that Peter Scott is in operation. Sometime back, the word was that the company had gone into “administration” (which I imagine is British equivalent of bankruptcy protection). Later, I read that it had been bought by Gloverall. Of course, that’s just I read. Hopefully, Peter Scott will continue making fine knitwear for years to come. Wish you would post information on where Peter Scott cashmere can be purchased in the U.S.!

Jon Di Blasi

Saw a few crew neck piece’s at Tk Maxx for £80. Didn’t have the feel i’d usually associate with cashmere. Sad to see another British company go under but at RRP they are rather expensive.

Anon.

I have just bought a Bannatyne cashmere jumper, size 44. I was looking for a UK 10, but find that the “44” is very tight and the sleeves are very long. What country do they use for sizing purposes? I bought the jumper on line.

Jody

Very sad to hear this news. I’ve been meaning to get something by Ballantyne for a while as Ballantyne is my middle name so I guess I’ll need to do it quickly!

facebook_ljubomir.doder

i like cashmere jumpers , would like some better designs ,not always v shape or classic look

disneyrollergirl

Hello Simon, Please can you explain the ‘tightly milled’ bit. I am so sick of being told ‘all cashmere pills’. I have S Fisher cashmere from god knows when that’s still going strong and never pills. Why does some pill and some not?

disneyrollergirl

Thank you Simon!

TD Harper

Very sad to hear this news, is there anywhere I can still get some Ballantyne scarves or cardigans?

Else Uhlmann

I need to replace my “old” Ballantyne v neck jersey. I think it is a male model. size 42. tried to measure it: 18,5″ between shoulders to arm seam and 25″ from arm insett (neck) down to under ribb (on my hip). I am female but this model is perfect for me. Do you have it in dark green or dark grey or even maroon? What does it cost? I am writing from Sweden.
Thanks,
Else Uhlmann.

Martina London

Can anyone confirm if the Ballantyne cashmere knitwear sold around on the Internet is really original old stock?

Mara Libek

How to buy the pink Ballantine sweater showed on the picture. Thank you I am in California

Diane Wotten

BLAST

nick inkster

Interesting to see this post has popped up again.

William Lockie cashmere will not disappoint.

Recusant

True. They provide Drake’s cashmere knitwear.

Adam Jones

I back that too. I have a william lockie for mr porter (kingsman) sweater. The cashmere is amazing in that and i love it. Its a shame the fit – for me is not right but the quality is undeniable.

Parker

Comparing Berk’s models and colour charts with those of William Lockie, both are exactly the same. Is there really a noticable difference or are we just fed marketing speech? Does Lockie produce Berk’s new line? I would really appreciate your insight on this. Maybe you could also make a post on all the companies that still produce in Scotland?

Jay

Hi Simon,

How often do you catch yourself wearing 4-ply knitwear v. 2-ply? I am considering a 4-ply shawl collar or cable knit.
To be versatile, which do you recommend and in what ply?

What is the advantage, if any, of undyed cashmere?

Finally, which of the Scottish makers do you recommend, and why? I have heard of Berk, John Laing, Hawick and William Lockie. From where do you recommend buying your recommendation?

Thank you.

Jay

Thanks Simon.
It would be interesting to know more about the differences in the yarns and styles.

H

Are you sure what is currently being sold as Berk isn’t just rebranded Lockie? I’ve had Lockie cashmere and its amazing, exactly as you describe the old Ballantaynes to be, and I may well be wrong but the Berk range looks exactly like what’s being sold via Lockie’s stock service.

I wouldn’t mind, lots of my favourite brands sell rebranded Lockie and I’d usually see it as a positive, its just Berk are charging quite a premium for the traditional bare finish. I could well have got it totally wrong and thought I’d check with you because if it is something different then I’d like to try it!

H

Thanks so much for following up on all this, really appreciate it! Just to clarify, by “not all made there” do you mean its not all made at Berk or at Lockie?

H

Ahh ok, thanks so much for chasing this all up!