The Celtic nations are woven in traditions. Recently we spoke with Robert Paterson of the Patrick King Woollen Company on the threads that tie his passion and profession.
What is your own background?
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland and emigrated to Canada in 1972. I remember my school report cards mentioning how I was a quiet boy, but that I had to stop using my fists as other children made fun of my Scottish accent. I have over 23 years of experience in the wholesale and retail Celtic industry.
What is the company’s history and mandate?
Patrick King was my great grandfather who came from a long line of weavers in Ireland in the mid 1800s but had to leave their home during the potato famine and emigrated to Glasgow in 1850. I am carrying the flame of my family by producing and designing tartan wools.
How has it evolved over time?
We continue to be a recognizable name for quality tartan wool products. We manufacture and design stock and custom tartans for corporate, hotel chains, tourist locations and retail shops. We also design custom tartans for weddings where we incorporate the bride and grooms’ clan or special colours to create a new family tartan where we produce blankets for the wedding guests.
What are the challenges of the job?
The only challenge is meeting our customers timelines when designing their custom tartan products so that they will have these beautiful products for their special exhibitions.
What are the rewards?
The rewards are seeing the finished products. We use our customers corporate colours or their environmental colours – as examples, the Canadian Rocky Mountains or the Athabasca Glacier – where we use the surrounding colours to design a custom tartan. It is really rewarding to see the surrounding inspirational colours and replicate these colours onto our looms and bringing the fabric to life. We can also incorporate special dates within the thread counts to tell their story.
What are your core products?
We use both Lambswool and Merino Wool in manufacturing scarves, stoles, capes, blankets, bags, and purses. We are soon launching a new Lambswool baby blanket line called Little Lamb and a dog blanket line called Barkingtosh.
How do you differ from the competition?
We work very closely with our customers to give them amazing service and can complete projects in tight schedules. That is what our experience brings you.
How do you reach your potential clients?
We exhibit in eight trade shows per year showcasing our product lines. Tartan is classic and has timeless qualities and will compliment any home, office, or cottage. In fashion, we produce chic scarves, clutch purses, cross body bags, messenger bags, capes, and stoles.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
Covid has really hurt our retail partners throughout North America as we specialize in tourist areas where most of our wholesale customers remain closed. We will get through this, however. During COVID-19, I realized how vulnerable we are as a planet and its up to us to leave our home healthy for our children’s children. We designed a tartan called “One World Together” with the colours blue (representing healthy oceans), green (for our lush forests), white (for hope), red (for love) and black (for equality). 20 per cent of our sales will be donated to the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic marketplace?
I believe it is still strong as we are all connected, we are story tellers, we are mentors to our children. It is up to us to instill our special heritage. My favorite saying is that “you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you came from.”
What can be done to improve that?
We improve this by continuing publications as the likes of the Celtic Life Magazine, as well as promoting Celtic Festivals, Scottish Highland Games, and information Clan tents where we showcase our heritage.
What are your future plans for the business?
We are continuing to produce new product lines, designing customs tartans for hotels, schools, promotional companies, and the tourist markets. Our passion is weaved within our fabric!