COVID-19 SUPPORT SERIES: In The Trenches with Simon Cotton CEO of Johnstons of Elgin

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  • Members In The Trenches with Simon Cotton
     23 April 2020
     12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

We’re delighted to have Simon Cotton, CEO of Scotland’s iconic makers of cashmere and fine woollen cloth, knitwear and accessories, Johnstons of Elgin, joining us as guest speaker.  A global phenomenon, Johnstons is widely renowned across the world and is one of this country’s most luxurious exports.  Our thanks to Simon for kindly giving his time and sharing his experience, ideas & advice with us, not least given the additional pressures of the current crisis.  

Key points Simon will be sharing with us include:

  • Their experience of the “Coronavirus Spring”
  • In the trenches:  Lessons we took from our 223 year history on surviving crises.
  • Why they believe opening will be harder than closing and what they are doing about it.
  • The fallout: their concerns for the next 18 months.
  • Imagining the new normal:  where they will switch strategy to cope with a changed world.


Simon Cotton has been the CEO of Johnstons of Elgin since 2013. Simon’s broad-ranging experience covers Manufacturing Management, Business Development, Company Turnarounds, Brand and Product Development, International Expansion and Commercial Development.

Prior to joining Johnstons, he spent 11 years in textiles at Russell Europe, before a five-year role for Swiss group Franke Kitchen. His early career started in Marketing and Product Development after graduating in Marketing and Business Law from the University of Strathclyde.

“At Johnstons of Elgin, we aim to marry the rich foundation and reputation with something more innovative and extensive that overcomes restrictions and is unexpected from a British mill.

In 2017, we celebrated our 220th anniversary year, and we want Johnstons to live for another 220 years, and more.  The unparalleled quality of our product and our obsession with innovation will, I believe, attract the talent, partners and customers that will make this possible.

Every time I walk into the mills in Elgin or Hawick, I see something we have never done before or that has never been done in the world. It’s impossible not to be inspired. 

My guiding principle is to find great people, agree the direction and give them as much responsibility and authority as they can cope with. Achieving excellence is incompatible with a short-term focus.”

Click HERE to read an excellent article Simon wrote recently about taking advantage of your networks during the Coronavirus pandemic.


Alexander Johnston established the Elgin Mill on the banks of the river Lossie in 1797, founding a legacy of fine craft and exquisite fabric.

With over over two hundred years of tradition and expertise in textile manufacturing, to Johnstons, luxury begins with outstanding craftsmanship, using the highest quality, natural fibres. Their dedication, patience and love for their craft allows them to lead the world in cashmere and woollens, sourcing only the finest raw fibres available and supplying the world’s top luxury brands.

In 2013, Johnstons of Elgin were awarded the Royal warrant of appointment as manufacturers of estate tweed HRH The Prince of Wales, Duke of Rothesay.

In both the Hawick and Elgin mills, woven and knitted products have been lovingly produced by devoted craftspeople, some of whom have been honing their skills with them for almost 50 years.  The experience and tradition rooted in their history have been passed down through generations to ensure they are preserved and represented in the products made today.

Over the years they have expanded their business and extended the mill, but they have also built a community, which, time and again, has proved to be their greatest asset. To date, they employ just over 1000 employees.

They are especially concerned with the preservation of traditional craft, doing their utmost to ensure the conservation of these special, increasingly rare, skills.  Their commitment to our people is their pledge to the future – their training centre in Hawick offers apprenticeships to people of all ages and is central to their vision of supporting and developing their legacy.

Click HERE to watch a video about Johnstons of Elgin.

Please check your text messages or in the events section of our app for the link to register after which you will be emailed the dial-in details.  Remember you can  submit a maximum of 2 questions prior to the event – instructions are in the confirmation email.

Our series of COVID-19 Support Events are FREE for WeDO Scotland members and take place twice weekly in addition to our weekly Brainstorming meetings every Monday at 11am and our Social Drinks on Thursdays at 5pm.