Harris to Herringbone
From Edinburgh’s Old Town to Covent Garden, tweed meets style at Walker Slater
Article by Charlie Fletcher Photography by Andy Barnham
Walker Slater has been a permanent fixture on Edinburgh’s Victoria Street for as long as I can remember. As a younger gentleman, the window was always a landmark with its elaborate country tweeds and grand displays. Over Walker Slater’s 25 years or so, their Edinburgh presence has grown fourfold. They are now the largest and most noticeable retailer on Victoria Street. The original shop grew into its neighbour, which, in turn, did likewise. Walker Slater has, but a few doors down, another shop dedicated to their ladies and children’s collections. Oh, there was also a pop-up shop across the road when I went to visit. It is fair to say that Victoria Street is fast becoming Walker Slater Street.
As you may have deduced, ladieswear by Walker Slater has been popular enough to warrant a shop unto its own. The ‘Emma’ jacket has proved particularly popular. Inspired by a riding jacket but designed to be worn in two ways. The clientele is still predominantly male though which is reflected in the size of the collections.
There has not just been expansion on one Edinburgh Street – the brand has also expanded South of the border. Their first foray was a small shop in Chelsea’s Fulham Road. London must have proved fruitful for the tailors and a second Covent Garden store was opened around two years ago. No matter the extent of the diversification, Walker Slater are still proudly an Edinburgh based outfit. Their design studio is tucked away off the Grassmarket and it is in that studio that every item in their collection is conceived.
“London is a statement city,” declares Alex, the manager of the Covent Garden shop. What better a cloth than tweed to make a statement? Walker Slater stock a vast range from understated herringbones to great windowpane checks, the correct amount of ‘statement’ can be found with ease.
Walker Slater’s expansion South of the Border has been well received but the team behind the brand aren’t just settling as things stand. Considerable work is undertaken to grow the brand across the globe. Walker Slater has had a presence as far afield as New York’s Tartan Week and Denmark’s CIFF. These shows give the brand an opportunity to undertake ambassadorial duties on behalf of bonnie Scotland.
The current trend for tweed is very apparent unless you avoid all popular culture (not that I would blame you). Tweed’s renaissance has been well documented on our screens: from the riotous Brummies in Peaky Blinders, the regenerating Matt Smith in Doctor Who to Benedict What’s-his-name in Sherlock (even Mads Mikkelsen as that cannibalistic psychiatrist made an appearance in tweed). Contemporary television has adorned its protagonists in tweed.
The clothing at Walker Slater is clearly following more than just a trend. Every item available from Walker Slater has been designed in house (apart from the odd Cheaney shoe) and the tailors pride themselves on using only natural fibres. British cloth is used in the majority of their range. Alongside the fact that every manufacturer used by Walker Slater has been visited and approved by their director Paul Walker, you can be sure that there is no lapse in care, quality or affection in any Walker Slater piece.
Among Walker Slater’s vast range are a number of collaborations. Harris Tweed Hebrides and Walker Slater partnered to produce the official Ryder Cup Harris Tweed. The tweed mill and the tailors combined to create a tweed that compliments the Ryder Cup tartan, the livery and the Hebrides. The cloth itself is a herringbone with hues from cobalt to aquamarine. A 25-piece collection was produced in the cloth and limited edition pieces are available in Edinburgh and Covent Garden. Other collaborators include the Scottish Football Association who have another specially commissioned tweed from Harris Tweed Hebrides.
The pricing is accessible with an off the peg three piece at less than £500. A made to measure service is proudly offered. Through this service, a vast world of fabric choice is presented. The amount of choice on display in the Edinburgh made to measure studio was impressive to say the least. Pricing for made to measure tailoring runs at around double the off the peg equivalent.
I thoroughly recommend looking at Walker Slater for some colder weather office wear or a special occasion statement tweed suit. I myself am tempted by a three piece in navy herringbone. There is a constant evolution in the clothing ranges, I heard whispered talks of a double-breasted tweed jacket that I will be keeping an eye out for. Be sure to venture into one of their shops for a view into the world of tweed.
Enquiries: Walker Slater (Covent Garden), 38 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AA / 0203 7549787
Edinburgh store: 20 Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH1 2HG / 01312 209750