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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Pringle: 200 Years of Woolly Thinking

A new exhibition looks back at two centuries of a most-loved Scottish knitwear brand

24 Февраля 2015

Gloria Minoprio at the English Ladies’ Close Championships, Westward Ho, 1933
Gloria Minoprio at the English Ladies’ Close Championships, Westward Ho, 1933

Yes, it was Her Majesty the Queen’s own shapely cream sweater displayed in a showcase at the Serpentine Gallery. 

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s cashmere sweater
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s cashmere sweater

A discreet whisper had it that the knitwear, first given to The Queen in the 1950s, had once been part of a sweater set. 

Woman golfers, Wales, 1920s: Courtesy of University of St Andrews Library, Special Collections, on behalf of the Women Golfers’ Museum
Woman golfers, Wales, 1920s: Courtesy of University of St Andrews Library, Special Collections, on behalf of the Women Golfers’ Museum

The cardigan had disappeared — perhaps chewed by a corgi or left back at Buckingham Palace because it is still in use. 

Stella Tennant in Pringle, and the Isle of Skye, both shot by Albert Watson
Stella Tennant in Pringle, and the Isle of Skye, both shot by Albert Watson

The 200-year celebration of Pringle of Scotland — an exhibition that will go to Edinburgh in April and then on to Asia — was full of fascinating information. It explained how knitwear had helped with the emancipation of women, as the summer sporty clothes they were entitled to wear on the golf course or tennis court eventually made their way into their wardrobes. 

“Delightful” advert for Pringle underwear
“Delightful” advert for Pringle underwear

Images of noble Scots, displayed beneath emotional photographs of the rugged Isle of Skye, were the contribution to the exhibition by photographer Albert Watson. 

Stella Tennant in front of her Pringle advert, shot by Albert Watson
Stella Tennant in front of her Pringle advert, shot by Albert Watson

Stella Tennant, Scotland’s best-known model, gave her personality to the casual way she wore the knits. 

A Pringle sweater from the 1950s
A Pringle sweater from the 1950s

After all the exhibition’s revelations about Pringle then and now, the runway show itself was quiet and polite: wearable woollens seen through the vision of Italian designer Massimo Nicosia. 

Wooden frame used to shape Pringle underwear
Wooden frame used to shape Pringle underwear

Giving knits a touch of urban glamour and using 3-D printing, the models walked out in cashmere skirts with diamond patterns, wearing high-heeled ankle boots. 

Lacy sweaters, white cable-knits and sparkly dresses suggested the Pringle woman was more likely to be a city slicker than a country bumpkin. 

Op-art intarsia cardigan designed by Stuart Beaty, 1958
Op-art intarsia cardigan designed by Stuart Beaty, 1958

Yet, somehow, I missed The Queen and her corgis and the kind of self-mockery from the British upper classes that you might find in Tatler. Pringle is also Scottish and proud of it. And its two-century celebration deserved a bit more Northern grit and wit.

Himalayan goat which was a notable feature at the Pringle Savile Row showroom in the 1950s
Himalayan goat which was a notable feature at the Pringle Savile Row showroom in the 1950s

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