Colhay’s: Slim Scottish knitwear

Friday, January 24th 2020
Share
||- Begin Content -||

Colhay’s is a start-up offering Scottish knitwear in slim fits, and some smaller sizes. 

As unique selling points go, it’s fairly niche. I did debate whether, given that, it was worth a full article on PS.

But I I think is, for a couple of reasons. 

First because the brand, its product and presentation, are executed very well. The knitwear is great, the taste level spot on, and the information well done. 

Those things mean that this could become a reliable place for a Permanent Style reader to consistently get their quality knitwear, and at a couple of different price points. 

Secondly, I’ve tried the knitwear myself and it’s perfect for me. That’s very subjective and personal, of course, but then most things on this site are necessarily. 

The navy crewneck I have, and have been wearing and trying out, is my perfect weight, style and fit. It has become a foundational piece in my wardrobe. 

Colhay’s was launched last October by Ronnie Chiu, an ex-lawyer and long-time Permanent Style reader, who couldn’t find good knitwear to fit him. 

Ronnie is Hong Kong Chinese (though grew up in New Zealand, and lives in London) and is small and slim. He wears a 36-inch chest jacket, sometimes 34. Even size XS knitwear is usually too big in the waist. He couldn't find anything that worked for him.

So, in the way these things usually go, Ronnie set out to develop some himself, spending a lot of time visiting mills in Scotland (and some in Italy). 

A year later, he had a pattern and product he liked, and created a range of knits in both cashmere and lambswool. 

The USP, as I said, is a little narrow - potentially only appealing to men who are as small and slim as Ronnie.

But as I’ve lamented in the past, slim fitting knitwear in any size is not easy to find. It’s one reason I’ve recommended Luca Faloni consistently, and tried made-to-measure from the likes of Saman Amel and others. 

The sizes do come up a little small, and for a while I erred between a 40 and a 42. I'm basically a 40 chest with the waist of a 38, but I did find the Colhay's 40 a little close under the arms, initially.

Having tried both though, the 40 was the right choice. It's not too short in the body or sleeves (often an issue for me when I pick the smaller of two sizes) and it has given a little in the arms, to fit very comfortably. (I wouldn't say it has stretched, just conformed very slightly.)

Other than the slimness, the knitwear is pretty standard. Standard length and sleeve, standard ribbing (not doubled back) and medium-depth V-neck. That medium depth is one reason I won’t get the V - I like it longer - but the crew neck is perfect, sitting a little higher than some models.

It's certainly a luxury piece elsewhere. The cashmere from Todd & Duncan is really lovely, and the lambswool is fine - enough to be something I would wear over just a T-shirt without it being scratchy. 

The weight is also perfect. Both cashmere and lambswool are 300g, the former 2-ply and the latter 1-ply. That’s what you want for wearing under a jacket, yet not being so fine that it can’t be worn on its own. 

Luca Faloni's cashmere is also mostly 2-ply, and there’s an interesting comparison there. 

The Todd & Duncan cashmere that Colhay’s uses feels rather different to the Cariaggi yarn from Luca Faloni. The former is typical Scottish, the latter typical Italian. 

Italian cashmere tends to have more retail appeal. It feels softer. But it’s also usually knitted a little more loosely, and has more finishing. 

There are other reasons for the difference too, including the way the yarn is carded. But overall the result is that Scottish cashmere is a little more robust, yet takes a while to feel as soft. 

There are also style differences between the two brands. I love the soft browns of Faloni, but always felt the navy was a little too blue. Colhay’s has a better navy, but doesn't those other, warm Italian colours. 

And the cable styles aren’t as fine. More Scottish again. 

Colhay’s is a little expensive - £295 for a cashmere crew neck - but I still think decent value.

Ronnie is not trying to undercut the market by charging a small margin. Rather, he's charging industry-standard margins and allowing for things like events, shops and wholesale in the future. 

And of course there is the lambswool offering as well as cashmere - where knits start at £165.

A couple of other nice things I’d mention about Colhay’s are the branding, and the information. 

The site as a whole, and the content, feel modern and young. That’s not something that Scottish knitwear companies - or indeed most of their UK stockists - are always great at.

It’s the photography and videos, but also style choices like having horn buttons on the shawl cardigans (above) rather than leather. 

This was something Ronnie deliberately aimed for, and hopefully it will help the site have a broader appeal, convincing more men to buy decent knitwear. 

And the information on the site is impressive. Silly things like explaining what ‘ply’ and ‘gauge’ mean, or whether 300g is light or heavy for knitwear. 

I’ve long bemoaned the lack of product information offered by most brands (often ‘100% cashmere’ and ‘imported’ is all you get) and Colhay’s is a good model for what all brands should be offering, in my view. 

For the moment, Colhay’s is only online, but Ronnie does meet customers in person around London, and plans to do events and trunk shows. 

The website contact form is the best way to reach out for the moment. 

I wish Ronnie luck, and I hope he continues to carry these good wardrobe staples for years to come. 

https://colhays.com/

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
73 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Paul Boileau

I think you should visit Todd and Duncan 🙂 I have sort of given up on buying cashmere for some of the reasons you mention above; ie lack of info and the feeling that you are entering into a crap-shoot when you buy it: will it be good? will it last? Price is only a rough determination of quality I’ve found. I have some old Caerlee Mills (Ballantyne) cashmere sweaters which will hopefully last a good while yet. Kung Hei Fat Choi to Ronnie!

Robert M

It’s really nice that such offering appeared for smaller men. Now I just wish somebody would do the same thing for tall guys. There is literally NO knitwear available that I can wear, the result being that I own only one cardigan with sleeves that are way too short. It’s impossible to dress properly without some knitwear in your wardrobe, but as much as I really want and need something exactly like Colhay’s shawl-collar cardigan, the sleeves would need to be at least 10 cm longer… (You can see that even on the model the sleeves are too short in the photos, and he is not that tall.)

Robert M

Not easy when you live in Central Europe, unfortunately. Additionally, Saman Amel and Luca Faloni offer knitwear that is too fine for my purposes (I get no use, e.g., of sweaters under jackets as I run way too hot for that even in the winter). Currently I am in the process of searching for some local knitwear specialists that will be able to make something MTM for me, however this market is virtually non-existent in my country, at least as far as high-quality knitwear is concerned (as opposed to past-time knitters using cheap acrylic etc.). Oh well.

Andrew Eckhardt

Robert, I’m sure you’ve heard S.N.S. Herning? Their garments are perhaps a bit more casual than you’d like. However, I’ve disproportionately longs arms and their sleeves and slim bodies are the best I’ve found in knitwear. Do let us know if you ever find sleeves of an acceptable length! I for one am always on the hunt.

Robert M

Thank you for the recommendation, Andrew. I have not heard of them before. You’re right to suppose they’re a bit too casual for my current needs, but I’ll keep them in mind if I ever require something more like this. (A bit annoying when a brand doesn’t care to post detailed garment measurements on their website though.)

PJM

I echo the recommendation for SNS Herning for the tall and slim.
Although some of the elements of the detailing may err on the casual I’ve found their lighter weight knits particularly useful.
I have had to size up considerably however, which is irritating for the unwary if you’re buying from afar. They do provide very detailed garment measurements (per individual design) with production tolerances & how they measure diagrams if you enquire, which I would very much recommend.

Anonymous

SNS Herning jumpers are excellent. I have several and find the fit and quality superb.

Robert M

I don’t know if anybody will see it anymore, but since there was a bit of a discussion about knitwear for tall and slim here, I’ll make an update.

Since then I managed to (with a break forced by COVID) order and have delivered an MTM shawl collar cardigan from the London-based 40 Colori. I don’t know if Simon or any of the readers have heard about them, but I wholeheartedly recommend. The item is great in both material and fit, and the customer service is absolutely excellent.

Rob

Interesting, i consider myself average height but find almost all knitwear too long. Saman Amel is a god send in this regard.

JDV

I “suffer” the same problem. I’m not that tall (176cm) and wear small in size. Usually knitwear that is fine in the body is too short in armlenght. MTM Knitwear is also virtually not existent in my area. Besides of Loro Piana, which I consider to be to pricy. A good online-service would certainly fill a nice niche.

Anonymous

I’ve been looking at a camel hair shawl collar which as 5 buttons. Simon in this case, is it possible from a tailoring standpoint to change a camel hair cardigan from 5 buttons to 4, to look like your PS cardigan? You’d have to reposition the button holes. Thanks

Anonymous

Wouldn’t you have to just stitch up the existing button holes then cut new ones? The stitching wouldn’t look great if you wear the cardigan unbuttoned, but I don’t. Is that something you’d go for if you don’t like the 5 button look? It’s hard to find my sizing in the first place

James

Simon

Thanks very much for an excellent article. This is one of those times when one is split between being pleased to see something being recognised and worried that people will descend on what way until now a niche brancd/suplpier. I hope stock can keep up!

I also utterly agree with you on Luca Faloni’s blue being too blue. I have grey, camel and brown form them but sold on both my cashmere blues for taht very reason. Amazing how that subtle difference in shades of Navy/ Midnight can make all the difference.

James

Noel

It’s nice that you’ve reviewed Colhays Simon, helping smaller companies to get noticed. I have their shawl collar cardigan and it’s certainly very nice, chunky yet slim fitting (I can compare it to Anderson and Shepard’s in slimness, not length or weight).

I originally heard about them via Instagram, and was swayed to try them because of the detailed information on the site.

I’d like to add that Ronnie was very helpful in answering my queries via email before I placed the order.

Amrit

As a short guy who spends a lot of his clothes shopping time looking for pieces like this in small, slim sizes, I’m over the moon!

On a related note, Simon what do you layer over thick shawl collar cardies? I have a few (including your A&S collaboration) but definitely wear them less, either because it’s raining or I’m loath to use them as an outer layer on public transport!

BC

I usually layer my vintage M-65, which is a bit loose-fitting, over my cardigans when the weather is bad. Granted, I wear my cardigans very casually, typically with denim.

SC

This looks wonderful! As a slim Asian 5’9″ and 135 lbs, it’s very difficult to get good quality knitwear without long sleeves or bagginess. Was disappointed in my trip to Smedley on Jermyn St. but interestingly, I did recently find Smedleys at home in Vancouver that fit well, possibly different cut made for our big Asian population? The PS/AS shawl Cardigan has a gorgeous navy, but the style is more loose fitting than preferred. The Colhay seems like a great fit…too bad the shawl Cardigan doesn’t come in a rich navy like the PS one. Just wondering, does the lambswool scratch at all, how does it compare to fine merino?

Aidan

Just wondering how the sizing of Luca Faloni 2 ply crew neck sweaters compare to Colhays? I take a 42 in Colhays given the slim fit, but wondering whether I should opt for a size large (40) in Luca Faloni? Many thanks

Emerging Genius

Being an ex-lawyer myself, I understand the attraction of leaving law in the rearview mirror. Wishing the company every success.

Tim

I’m delighted you wrote this piece; I’ve been looking for modern, slim fitting sweaters for what feels like forever, I’ll definitely give these a try!

Victor W.

Simon,

Did you try their shawl-collar cardigan? If so, in what size and how did you feel about the body length and sleeve length? It’s advertised as having a “shorter body” – I’ve never owned or even tried a thick cardigan before but I’d imagine it looks best when the length is equal to that of a traditional suit jacket: just long enough to cover the bum. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Thanks!

Lewis

Thanks for bringing this company to our attention.

I’m really tempted by the camel ribbed roll-neck as it looks fabulous.

I’m perturbed by the idea of it not being practical though, since it would heat me up like a coat I’m guessing, which means I wouldn’t wear it indoors but then equally I wouldn’t wear it alone as an outdoor piece ? Not sure if my concern is a valid one.

I’d love to hear any ideas about the practicality of this kind of piece.

PM

Just how ‘slim’ is the fit Simon?

Would the fit exclude anyone of a bulkier frame?

Jay

Which other brands sell knitwear made using Todd & Duncan cashmere?

Anonymous

saw you wearing a cream lambswool shawl collar cardigan by Colhays, presumably made by S&C. How did you like it? Is it soft? How is the cut different from the PS Indulgent Cardigan? Thank-you

Paul F.

This isn’t specifically related to Colhay’s but more generally to styling knitwear. In that vein, what is the deal with tucking in sweaters (aka knit jumpers)? I see it all the time in fashion ads—queue photos especially from The Rake—but I never ever see anyone tuck in a sweater in real life. (I think that Andreas from @flannels_and_tweed has also tucked in his sweater at times, but I’m not entirely convinced he’s real 🙂 ) I’ve experimented with it a couple times, but it’s not very comfortable as sweaters are almost invariably too thick to comfortably tuck in. Ime curious about your thoughts on this phenomenon. I’m not sure if there’s enough to say for it to warrant it’s own PS post but perhaps something to note as part of a larger piece contrasting the real world versus the fashion ad world?

Paul

Thanks for this Simon. Being of slightly larger frame, Colhay’s shawl cardigan may be too slim.

Note you mention that usually the one offered by the mills themselves is less fitted.

Any suggestion as to which mill used to get same style as Colhay’s shawl cardigan in non slim fit?

Thanks

Tom

I wanted to second Robert’s comment on 40 Colori – I have not yet ordered with them but came across their relatively new shop on Lamb’s Conduit several months ago, finding high-quality products, an innovative direct-to-manufacturer approach and a truly warm couple running things. I was thinking to recommend Simon check them out so I’m glad Robert’s comment reminded me. I was thinking of ordering a MTM cotton turtleneck and they graciously spent the time discussing the options with me, even though it was not a product they had yet considered offering.

John

Hi Simon, can you comment on how the Colhays shawl collar cardigan compares to Drake’s in terms of fit?

In particular, Drake’s cardigan seems to be a more relaxed option than a jacket; do you think the Colhays version is smart enough to do that too? The ribbing seems abit chunkier on Colhays cardigan, which might make it less formal? However, I know Drakes’ to be quite baggy under the arms, which I guess Colhays doesn’t have such an issue with as it is slimmer.

Many thanks.

Vinay

Hi Simon,

Interesting article on a new brand.

Following on from my knitwear Q&A in another one of your posts (core casual wardrobe), I wanted to know your thoughts comparing two different knits: (1) Colhay’s superfine lambswool sweater and (2) Trunk’s Brendon Merino Crew. Both in navy.

My questions are:
– In your opinion, are both knits similar in terms of material and construction quality?
– In your opinion, would both knits be versatile as part of a casual wardrobe that can also be worn with light tailoring? I note that Colhay’s is a much large 12 gauge knit versus the Trunk merino at 30 gauge. I am trying to ascertain which would be the most versatile out of the two. Could both be worth under a shirt with jeans as well as with flannels and a casual sports jacket?

Thanks for your advice.

Vinay

Thanks Simon.

Rob

Hi Simon, may I ask if you took a size 40 or 42 for your Colhay’s crewneck? I find I typically take the same size as you.

Many thanks.

mbb355

I love the brand but do you find it is difficult to wear a collared shirt under the crew neck jumper because the neck is so high and tight that the shirt collar (in my case, a soft OCBD collar) collapses beneath it or constricts in on itself to the point where it looks odd? The high neckline is flattering for wearing the sweater with just a t-shirt underneath, but layering over a collared shirt doesn’t seem to work as well with these crewnecks. Could just be my particular shirt, though.

Michael

Hi Simon. Interesting article and good to see a quality new brand in the knitwear arena. Knitwear, though, bugs me. I started with Smedley, but I’ve had endless problems with them which I can’t fathom – three returns with stitching coming apart, two with random holes. I can’t help but feel that they’re flimsy, compared to, say, Drake’s. But the latter’s price point has, in my opinion, become ridiculous of late (more expensive than A&S, although it will have its reasons no doubt). I chucked it all in and went for Uniqlo following another article of yours, and it’s OK to be honest. I want to love high end knitwear but it’s tricky.

Mark

Just to add my voice to an endorsement for Colhays. I have recently bought both a crewneck and rollneck sweater, both in lambswool. Love the slim fit, quiet colours, and the quality. Ronnie was very helpful in sizing. The very thing to put on under the Permanent Style trench coat or Donegal Tweed balmacaan before heading out under blustery pewter November skies.

Anonymous

Do you prefer the Colhays grey cardigan over Luca Faloni’s grey cashmere version?Both look very nice but I have’nt seen them in person.

MBB355

Simon, what do you think of the superfine lambswool non-shawl cardigan? I generally prefer a shawl as it adds bulk to the shoulders and flatters the frame. But the non-shawl is slimmer, lighter, less bulky, more versatile (you can wear under a jacket, like the Finest Cardigan, or on its own), and classic. It’s really growing on me. One thing that’s nice about it is, once you put a sweater on, you almost feel “stuck” in it, whereas it’s much easier to put on or take off a cardigan, as needed.

MBB355

I get that. I’d miss the shawl collar too, as I feel scrawny and long-necked without one. I agree cardigans in fabrics like merino (or other similarly sleek, fine fabrics) can look dainty. I think Colhays ameliorates that problem by producing the cardigan in lambswool, which is a bit more textured and rugged. I love the colors they come in (navy, burgundy, oatmeal). And the guy at the top of this article wears it well! I’m strongly considering purchasing one.

MBB355

For what it’s worth, I got the navy lambswool non-shawl cardigan and I love it. Couldn’t recommend more highly. It has a lovely classic, even vintage feel.

TED

You mentioned that you liked the soft browns of Faloni. Which specific shades are your favourite?

TED

Oh, the Nocciola is indeed very nice. What do you think about Ivory, Charcoal Grey, and Dolomiti Grey? Do you think that they are particularly good looking?

TED

So, in your opinion, the best offerings from Faloni would be Nocciola Brown and Dolomiti Grey, right? Do you think that they would work better as a crew neck or a roll neck? Which would you get for each?

TED

What are your thoughts on Camel Beige? Do you like that colour as well? Do you think that it’s also a classic or would you still select Nocciola Brown if given the choice?

R Abbott

I have Luca Faloni cable knit sweaters for n both nocciola and dolomiti grey and highly recommend both. The cable knit design is lovely and versatile – I’ve worn both directly over a T-shirt end over a shirt. I’ve worn both over jeans and flannel trousers. That said, doesn’t really work under a sports jacket. But great for casual wear.

Quality is high, the cashmere is soft, and I’ve received lots of compliments – particularly fir the nocciola.