Johnstons of Elgin x Sabina Savage

The Great Exhibition Stole

Johnstons of Elgin x Sabina SavageJohnstons of Elgin x Sabina Savage

Artist, animal lover and Print Designer Sabina Savage is a visual storyteller whose heritage-inspired collections bring history to life in a unique and creative way. To celebrate our 225th anniversary, we collaborated with Sabina to create stunning Cashmere Stoles depicting our success at London’s Great Exhibition in 1851.

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The Creative Process

Sabina established her business in 2014 after spending three years in Paris studying the art of couture. Her London-based studio creates exquisite silk scarves, clothing and accessories, visually narrating fantastical stories featuring exotic animals from the past and present.

'I design two collections each year, each with a different theme,' Sabina explained. ‘I do lots of research, I go to exhibitions and find something that interests me, then I write a short story around that.

'For this project, I took Johnstons of Elgin's own brand story and added my own fictional tale. I incorporated my usual themes of animals and the Scottish countryside, so the animals are carrying threads to London to show their wares at The Great Exhibition at The Crystal Palace.'

Sabina Savage at Johnstons of Elgin
Sabina Savage Mood Board

"...the animals are carrying threads to London to show their wares at The Great Exhibition at The Crystal Palace.

The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park for Great International Exhibition of 1851

Once Sabina has created a mood board, she takes her time to sketch and draw the detail required for each design. Each drawing takes between four and six weeks to complete. Sabina’s commitment to avoiding repeat patterns ensures each corner of every design is unique, offering the wearer versatility and variety when knotting and wearing her scarves. Each season since 2019, Sabina has designed a capsule clothing collection to accompany her signature scarves. This project saw Sabina's intricate artwork in a woven finish rather than print.

Sabina Savage designing a Great Exhibition Stole
Sabina Savage designing a Great Exhibition Stole

The Great Exhibition Stole

Our Great Exhibition Stoles are tapestry-like designs centring on our success at the famous 1851 event in London. The Great Exhibition Stole in Cashmere Silk is a lightweight piece edged in soft fringing, while The Great Exhibition Stole in Cashmere and Merino Wool has a heavier drape with a traditional purled fringe finish. Both are wearable masterpieces that tell our unique story.

By 1851 Johnstons of Elgin were pioneering the weaving of Cashmere and Vicuna in Scotland. Throughout the 1850s, we showed our products at various exhibitions and were awarded prizes for excellence, leading to our pieces being exported across the globe. We were awarded a medal for our ‘Superb Vicuna Shawls' at the Great Exhibition at The Crystal Palace.

Sabina’s stunning artistry features elements of Johnstons of Elgin’s 225-year history, with her trademark focus on animals and nature. Several majestic creatures, including Vicuña, a Cashmere goat and a stag, make their way from Elgin to London, with the rivers Lossie and Thames flowing below.

The Great Exhibition Stole
The Great Exhibition Stole
The Great Exhibition Stole
The Great Exhibition Stole

Sabina said, 'I was on a trip to New York with Walpole and met some of the Johnstons of Elgin team. I already knew of the brand, and we discussed doing something together to mark Johnstons of Elgin's 225th anniversary.

‘I spent a month drawing the illustration, which, like all my work, is based on a story, in this case, Johnstons of Elgin's journey to The Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The illustration starts on the left in Scotland, and all the animals travel across the stole to London. I know how important the river is to Johnstons of Elgin's processes, so the river moves across the bottom, and there are many details to represent Scotland's beauty.'

Made in Scotland

Heritage, hand craftsmanship and authenticity inspire each distinctive Sabina Savage design. This ethos partners perfectly with our own values. The show-stopping Great Exhibition Stole is proudly made in our own Scottish weaving mill, which Sabina visited to watch her design come to life.

‘It’s amazing to see the process from the bales of Cashmere all the way to the finished product. It was amazing to feel the Cashmere in such a raw form and to feel how lightweight it is. It’s kind of like unicorn hair,’ she said. 

‘I love the teaselling process because I love how nature is brought back in just before the process is finished to brush the surface of the Cashmere and give it a fine finish.’ 

"...I love how nature is brought back in just before the process is finished...

'My designs are usually printed, so this project is completely different. While I was drawing, I was very conscious of that and the fact that the team at Johnstons would be taking it and turning it into a wearable woven piece,’ said Sabina. 

‘I think seeing the design woven gives it a lot more texture than you get with print. When seeing it in just two colours, you would assume it would seem more two-dimensional, but actually, it really does bring it to life in an organic way.’ 

About the Artist

Sabina is featured on the Walpole Power List for 2022 in the creative category ‘for those who see the world a little differently: the creative powerhouses upon whose ideas businesses are built’.

Understanding Sabina’s love of animals, it’s no surprise that her own pets are part of her artistic process.

‘I have a little dog, Gin, and I found a kitten, Ginger, who comes to work with me and is now part of the studio team. I love animals and depicting all their details and tiny parts, like the details of their fur or feathers.’ 

About the Artist

Sabina Savage
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