Edinburgh is certainly not short of talented and creative individuals. Staying true to his Scottish heritage, Paul Walker – one half of Walker Slater – is founder and designer of the ‘Tweed Jacket, Suit and Tailoring Specialists’. The Walker Slater brand is known globally, with customers visiting stores from all corners of the globe. Paul shares his views on why Edinburgh is the ideal location for his traditional clothing store.
Tell us about the background of Walker Slater – where and when did it start?
Walker Slater was founded in the Scottish Highlands in 1989. The landscape and colours of Scotland were very inspiring to me. The passion for creating clothing with rich traditional cloths comes from the idea that if clothing is stylish, yet practical and robust, it can allow you to be carelessly elegant. You can let yourself be and have confidence that what you are wearing will continue to look good. Tweed really plays into this, it has become the denim of Scotland bringing the mountains home. A move to Edinburgh for retail was natural progression for us.
And where are you today?
Currently Walker Slater have two stores on the historic Victoria Street in Edinburgh, one dedicated to menswear and the other a ladies store. The stores are very beautiful and fit into the iconic street. Within the last year we have opened a store in Glasgow's Merchant City and have had a great reception. South of the Border we have two stores in London, one in Covent Garden and the other to the West on the Fulham Road.
Why did you choose Edinburgh and above all, the Old Town to locate your business?
The Old Town is steeped in history and has an amazing draw for discerning tourists, this is important to us as people seek us out to find something really special which they hopefully will keep for a lifetime as a memory of Edinburgh. The proximity to the city's world class University and National Library are also important as part of our local customer base.
The Fashion industry is obviously a fast-paced and fast-changing environment – what is Walker Slater’s particular USP and secret to your success?
Walker Slater has retained the heritage fabrics – we work closely with Harris Tweed and have developed beautiful lightweight tweeds with mills in the Scottish Borders. I was keen to move away from the bright window panes and tweed with any manmade fibers was a definite no go! The area we are often recognised for is the cut of our suits, particularly our jackets. We have really refined these and made the fits contemporary and stylish. Customers return time and time again due to the flattering style of our suits and unique ladies wear.
We love the textiles you use (and all covet a WS tweed jacket!) – How important is the Scottish textile industry to you?
The Scottish Textile industry is at the heart of what we do. The revival of the Harris Tweed industry over the past ten years has been an amazing thing to be a part of; like the fit of our suits Harris Tweed has provided us with some more contemporary colours and special lighter weight finishes which makes their cloth more wearable. Harris Tweed has also brought us some really special partnerships such as the Scottish Rugby Union collection which we designed and now retail. The Borders Mills supply us with elegant light weight suitings including wool woven with cotton and sometimes silk - these are really special pieces and make great wedding suits. We also enjoy working with Scottish knitters to make our beautiful Shetland jumpers which are incredibly special and have the most stunning colours and patterns.
You dress some of the most stylish people (and some well-known faces!) – do you have a typical client?
Edinburgh is fortunate to receive some eminent visitors who almost always fall in love with our outstandingly beautiful city. Recently we dressed Stanley Tucci for the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF). During the EIFF, we had visits from Richard E Grant who is a huge fan of our clothes. For the entire series of Dancing on Ice 2018, former New York City ballet dancer Jason Gardiner wore entirely Walker Slater - he is incredibly athletic and looked outstanding in every suit. Nick Cave, a favourite of one of our managers, also paid us a visit recently. Although we do enjoy a bit of sparkle and celebrity, we value all of our customers and always respect the privacy of those in the spotlight who require it.
As for our typical client, I would like to think we have something for everyone; we have three distinct looks which we do well - citywear, country and casual.