KNIT PICKING: Pringle of Scotland is marking the year of the goat in a very particular way, with a new exhibition that tracks its history in knitwear, particularly fashion knitwear.
The brand, which is marking its 200th anniversary year, this week unveiled “Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story,” at the Serpentine Gallery in London, where it will remain for a few days before moving to Edinburgh.
An expanded version of the show will run from April 10 to Aug. 16 at the National Museum of Scotland.
The show shines the spotlight not only on Pringle’s way with knitwear, but also on how the company transformed itself – in the space of a just a few decades – from demure underwear manufacturer to purveyor of twinsets, glamour girl knits, and avant-garde creations such as screen-printed cashmere. Pringle has long been a marketing machine, taking Scottish beauties around the world to promote its wares, forging relationships with American department stores and working with artists and designers from places including the Glasgow School of Art.
The company proudly sent its knits to Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret, and the exhibition showcases a cream sweater from the monarch’s own closet, as well as effusive thank-you notes from both royals. In the Forties and Fifties, the company’s marketing director paid Scottish actresses to wear Pringle onscreen and off, and would often hand-pick pretty Pringle office girls, send them to etiquette school, and then taken them on tour to help advertise the merchandise.
That said, Pringle’s knitwear was a two-way street. The exhibition’s curator Alistair O’Neill, the fashion academic and author, said knitwear’s transition from underwear to outerwear coincided with women’s entry into modern life. “Women were able to use fashion to help create their space in the world.”
During a walk-through of the show, he pointed to black-and-white images of women donning men’s sweaters and cardigans during World War One, and adapting knitted male golf attire to their own golf wardrobes.
In addition to archive pieces from Scottish museums, private collections and the brand itself, the show also features three films created by Michael Clark Dance Company showing how knitwear moves with the body, and a new series of campaign images shot by Albert Watson shot on the Isle of Skye, with Scottish figures including Stella Tennant, David Shrigley and Luke Treadaway.