By Luis De Jesus & Jose Morales. This article, "Paul Walker: The Man Behind the Iconic Scottish Fashion House Walker Slater," was first published in our Fashion Issue.
"Walker Slater has always been about discovery. People really enjoy the feeling of finding a gem, something beautiful and unique, which is delivered with excellent customer service and tailored to fit perfectly." - Paul Walker
Edinburgh, Scotland – Walker Slater was founded in the Scottish Highlands in 1989. Since then, founder and designer Paul Walker and his team have catapulted the brand into one of Scotland’s most sophisticated and well-known fashion houses, specializing in tweed and wool apparel. The brand’s clientele extends across the world, with customers traveling thousands of miles to their stores in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London to get their hands on the exquisitely tailored garments, and luxury accessories. The brand also offers made-to-measure services, with a selection of over ten thousand premium fabrics to choose from.
Though the brand boasts a style heavily rooted in traditional Scottish fashion, Walker Slater has become recognized for its modern twist on the classics, attracting a younger generation of consumers who want to look their best in garments that are elegant, but still practical. All of this without compromising the heritage and integrity of the weaving and tailoring techniques used to manufacture the garments.
We had the honor of sitting with Mr. Walker for a conversation about the brand, its history, and what makes Walker Slater unique within the fashion industry today.
~ Interview ~
1 – Mr. Walker, what was the initial inspiration behind the launch of Walker Slater?
The time from graduating from the University of Dundee and moving to live in the Scottish Highlands was a hugely formative and inspiring part of my life. The harshness and beauty of the environment meant you had to have practical and warm clothing. I saw the locals and gamekeepers wearing tweed, and I knew it could be reinterpreted for more general use and that if the weight was right, a tweed suit was something many people would see as a welcomed addition to their wardrobe. Tweed is an amazing fabric as the wool content keeps you warm in a natural way. It is also shower-proof and recovers well from being exposed to weather conditions.
Over the years, Walker Slater has developed into a lifestyle brand that offers shirts, knitwear, and items that complement our tweeds for both men and ladies. At the heart of the brand is the quality of design, expert fabric choice, and integrity in the construction of each garment. The team at Walker Slater wants our garments to become part of your life and be with you for many years to come.
2 – Walker Slater is a brand that continues to redefine traditional Scottish fashion. What are the key aspects you need to consider when formulating and designing tweed pieces?
We have enjoyed creating a diverse collection that has explored a range of styles of clothing. Through what we make, we always strive to maintain a high level of quality, craftsmanship, and wearability for the user. We aim to offer a range of garments that is interesting to a cross-section of the market, and that is suitable for every customer who comes into our stores or visits our online store. Walker Slater is unique as we offer a wide range of tweeds in modern cuts, which means that there is a lot of diversity in what we do. Our price point is accessible, so when people begin to browse our collection, they are often pleasantly surprised by the level of quality they see. Walker Slater has been inventive and
creative with a piece of traditional fabric. This excites people and makes them really connect with the brand.
3 – When discussing Walker Slater’s made-to-measure services, and the contemporary twists to some of your collections, which are some of your most recognizable collections?
Made-to-measure has always been something that I have put a lot of effort into with Walker Slater. It is a great process, and I am so glad we can offer it to our customers. Our trained tailors can assist with fulfilling almost any vision. We can help clients create something truly unique to them, with thousands of fabrics to choose from.
In terms of collections, Walker Slater’s mainline men’s collection is about lifestyle. It features high-quality tweed tailoring with the three-piece tweed suit at the core. We offer five main styles: Edward, Martin, James, Francis, and William. This allows us to cater for every shape and size comfortably, and our team is well trained in assisting our clients in choosing the style that best suits them.
Messrs Walker Slater was a creation by a friend and me. We looked for slimmer, brighter, and more vivid fabrics while still maintaining the quality and brand values of Walker Slater. Messrs aims to appeal to a younger generation. It is a seasonal collection with changes occurring in line with the fashion calendar.
The Bridge Collection aims to incorporate more of a vintage-style-casual-wear. It is inspired by the Forth Rail Bridge – where country meets city – and merges denim, brushed cotton shirts, and both heavy and finer knitwear.
Walker Slater Ladies was launched in 2012. It features really innovative Harris Tweeds, cloths from the Scottish Borders, and fibers such as wool-cashmere. A lot of ladies come to the store for something really special, such as a statement coat or jacket. Over the years, we have diversified our ladies range and attracted many new and repeat customers.
"At the heart of the brand is the quality of design, expert fabric choice, and integrity in the construction of each garment." - Paul Walker
4 – What are your inspirations both within and outside the fashion industry?
Ralph Lauren is an inspiration within the industry – just how long he has been in the business, the brand’s strong lifestyle feel, and the range of styles they offer. Sailing, fishing, and being in the outdoors are sources of inspiration outside of the industry. I am captivated by the natural colors and textures of the Scottish landscape. I am also inspired by those who aspire to look smart but not flashy; those who are able to present an image of careless elegance while remaining comfortable in the clothing they choose.
5 – How vital are collaborations for the brand?
At Walker Slater, we want people to feel an emotional connection to our clothing, and to become part of their lives. Partnerships are great for expanding our reach. We enjoy working with like-minded businesses and groups to appeal to a broader audience and also to develop the lifestyle aspect of our brand.
Walker Slater, along with Harris Tweed Hebrides, is the official formal wear partner of Scottish Rugby. We have also built strong partnerships with Ryder Cup and the Scottish Football Association. The collections we developed for these sporting groups are based on the expertise in tailoring and making of small items, such as wallets, hipflasks, and caps, Walker Slater has developed over the years. These items offer a great gift alternative to the sporting goods often retailed around sports events.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo tweed received a great response in August 2019. The global draw was phenomenal and drew many more customers to the Walker Slater stores during the busy festival period.
We also work often with drink brands such as Edinburgh Gin, and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. The luxury end of this market often fits in with the lifestyle of our customers. We have a selection of whiskeys to offer our clients who choose our made-to-measure service. It is a pleasant surprise for someone choosing our premium service.
6 – The success of Walker Slater echoes through every aspect of your stores. Are there plans to bring Walker Slater to markets that might not have been introduced to Scottish fashion, yet?
The world has changed, and people are really interested in discovering and learning about what they are buying. Our online store is growing, which is great to see. But, I do wonder if those who visit us online have had the opportunity to experience our in-store services. For this reason, we have a lot of interest in international markets, due to the heritage of the brand and the ‘Scottishness’ portrayed.
Walker Slater has always been about discovery. People really enjoy the feeling of finding a gem, something beautiful and unique, which is delivered with excellent customer service and tailored to fit perfectly. Our team of experts excels at this, and we want more people to be able to experience this. – GM
Click here for more about Walker Slater as photographed by photographer Kewin Connin Jackson.
GUILD MAGAZINE - THE FASHION ISSUE