Five minutes with ... Howlin'
Five minutes with ... Howlin'
Howlin’ have been producing quality knitwear in Scotland since the 1980’s. Fusing traditional manufacturing with playful designs, they use the highest quality yarns to create timeless pieces that are made with care. We had a chat with founding brothers, Patrick and Jan Olyslager to hear more about their origins and what’s coming up for the brand.
Q: Your family started a knitwear business in the 80s, could you tell us how it all came about?
A: My father had a store in Belgium, and he couldn’t get 2ply lambswool from any supplier; there was an 8 month waiting list for Pringle, so him and my mother took a long drive to Scotland to find a factory to make it themselves, and that is how Morrison was started.
Q: Did your father have a background in design?
A: No he had no fashion or design background, he played tennis and wanted jumpers to wear post-game. He learnt about design at the factories on the job.
Q: What was Morrison like when you and your brother took it over in 2008?
A: What started as Made in Scotland men’s knitwear had grown into a full collection, with knitted trousers and jackets, and was more focused on womenswear. When we took over, we wanted a product category to focus on and knitwear was the obvious niche. We went back to Scotland to work with new factories as sadly all the original factories our parents worked with have since all closed down. Like our parents, neither Jan or myself have a background in fashion, we have had our education at the factories and from our family, trying new things out on the ground, and learning from there.
Q: Why did you change the name to HOWLIN’?
A: First it was called Howlin’ by Morrison (which is the Scottish slang for smelly…) but we did not want to work with the heritage ‘hype’ around that time, which was never really about heritage in a REAL sense. Instead, we wanted to create a new, contemporary label, keeping the Shetland and Scottish design but reinterpreting it in a modern way.
Q: Like Garbstore, you have your own label as well as your own brick and mortar shop in Antwerp. Could you tell us a little bit about the Howlin’ customer?
A: Like Garbstore, we have a real range of customer. The older guys come in for our classic colourways, and they have been customers from the Morrison days, and still recognise the product. Then with our more crazy pastel colours, we attract a younger crowd, so it really is a wide audience. Talking to our customers in-store really helps us gauge what works well, so we can improve things every season.
Q: That’s really good to hear that an older generation is still coming back to buy Howlin’.
A: Yeah, it really is. I think the heritage trend has died down a bit, all those ‘digged up’ labels have disappeared again and aren’t here anymore; and the modern / technical trend has been here for a few seasons already. We think humour and making things joyful are absolutely key. Not to take things too seriously.