May 11, 2023 4 min read
At Meander, we are proud of our Scottish heritage and delighted to have some amazingly talented manufacturers on our doorstep.Robert Mackie, who makes our best selling lambswool beanies, is based an hour and half from Edinburgh, on the west coast of Scotland and famed around the world for its incredible quality and craftsmanship.
From a sustainability standpoint, we always look to manufacture as close to home as possible, which helps us keep our carbon footprint low, whilst making sure we are working with the best manufacturers for the product we are making. Scotland is renowned for its knitwear and Robert Mackie is one of the oldest and best which has been in existence since 1845.
Just a few weeks ago we had the pleasure of visiting Robert Mackie and seeing around the factory. It was a privilege to delve into the archives, be shown the very old and very modern machinery and to meet the talented craftsmen and women who have been at Robert Mackie through the generations. It's inspiring to see the process and we feel privileged to work with such a talented mill. We hope you enjoy the Q&A as much as we’ve enjoyed getting to see behind the scenes.
With over 175 years of experience - can you tell us a little bit about the heritage of Robert Mackie?
Robert Mackie of Scotland are one of the leading Scottish Manufacturers of knitted accessories, specialising in hats, gloves and scarves. Established in 1845 to create traditional Highland Headwear, we’re still making knitted accessories in Stewarton, Scotland’s famous ‘Bonnet Toun’ and selling them all over the world. We have passed down our knowledge through generations of makers. Our time-honoured techniques are borne out in our products - famous for their quality and use of colour. We draw on the rich textile heritage of Ayrshire to craft indulgent modern classics. Luxurious to the touch, our soft, warm hats, gloves and scarves are made only with the finest wools.
Can you tell us about how things have evolved over the years with the manufacturing processes?
Traditionally products would be knitted as a full panel and would then have to be cut to shape and then stitched together. This was a very inefficient method as it created waste from the off cuts of material and inconsistencies with the shape and overall quality of the finished item. We use the very latest Stoll multi gauge knitting technology that allows us to produce fully shaped and joined garments eliminating all waste and each item is exactly the same as the last and improving fit, comfort and quality.
During our visit to the factory, we saw both old machinery and new technologies. Are there advantages or disadvantages to both and do you think these traditional machines will become obsolete?
We still use traditional machinery for some unique products purely as there is no modern equivalent to them. This is what allows us to produce such an extensive variety of different products and something no one else can replicate. We certainly hope the traditional machinery will last a long time in to the future.
One of the many benefits of using natural fibers is its minimal impact on the environment. Can you tell us more about how Robert Mackie thinks about your impact and any steps taken to minimize your environmental impact?
Since 1845 our core values of using natural fibres and making quality products has endured. Thankfully, concern for the environment is now a global priority, which aligns with our ethos. All our yarn waste is repurposed, not landfilled and we are currently exploring creating our own bespoke recycled yarn, from our yarn waste.
How do you source your yarns and is there a criteria for selecting suppliers?
Here at Mackie’s we work with natural fibres which are ethically sourced and from non-mulesed wool. We have longstanding relationships with a lot of the yarn suppliers we work with, for example we have been working Z. Hinchliffe from whom we source yarns like lambswool for over 30 years. When selecting new yarns from suppliers we would ensure that they align with our values of ethically sourced and certified free from Azo dyes.
Can you tell us a bit about where you are based in Scotland and the importance Robert Mackie has on the local community?
We are based in the small town of Stewarton which was once home to a total of 10 bonnet makers as well as 3 woollen spinners and 8 manufacturing agents. Today we are the only one who remains and we’re very proud to be part of Scotland’s rich textile heritage. The local Bonnet Guild organises events throughout the year which we support when we can - last year the bouncy castle at the gala day was sponsored by Mackie. Most of our employees come from Stewarton or local towns and villages so we’re definitely a local company.
We'd love to know more about your employees - who is your longest serving staff? Any interesting achievements, hobbies of facts about your team?
In our workforce of 78 we’ve got 5 employees who have been with us more than 35 years with the longest serving one racking up an incredible 46 years service.Our Despatch Manager Scott has raised nearly £15,000 for Alzheimer’s Scotland. His mum suffers from dementia so he has made it a mission over the last few years to do something to help. He’s written a book, jumped out of a plane, abseiled off the Forth Rail Bridge and done a zipslide across the river Clyde… not bad for someone who is terrified of heights.
What’s next for Robert Mackie?
We want to continually expand our technical ability and be the go to UK supplier for knitted accessories. Alongside that, we recognise that the world’s priorities are changing and we have recently started on our company’s journey to Net Zero so that we can continue to provide great product with the smallest possible impact on our surroundings.
Thank you so much the team at Robert Mackie for all of your help! We can't wait to see our new developments come to life and hit the shelves later this year!!
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