Between being a father, husband and running your own business – it’s very hard to pin John down and interrogate him with some questions. Luckily, his sister Rosie Sugden managed to do some of the work for us, and released it in her journal which you can find on her website. Rosie is a talented knitwear designer, specialising in fashion-forward accessories made from luxurious cashmere. Her ethos states long-lasting, durable accessories in a time of throw away fast fashion – a sustainable focus, with all manufacturing made in Scotland.
Scroll down to read her conversation with John:
Tell us about yourself?
Since a young boy I’ve always loved menswear, so it was no surprise to my parents that I followed my Father’s footsteps into the clothing world, firstly 10 years working for a cashmere and fine woollens mill, and then 4 years at Mackintosh.
After 12 years in London I decided that the timing was right to move away and start my own business. It was a natural decision to move back to the highlands as its where both my wife and I grew up.
Where is home?
Yorkshire. No doubt about it. Through and through. I was born in Huddersfield, schooled in the Yorkshire Dales, and then at Leeds university. But “home home” today is above the shop in Beauly. So proper traditional shop keepers!
John & Nicola Sugden
What got you involved with the textile industry?
I suppose my family involvement over the years. Both my father’s and mother’s families were involved in the industry. Coupled with my love of menswear from a young age it was the obvious route for me to follow. That’s not to say that there aren’t some photos of me when I was young in very dubious wares!
Tell us about Campbell’s of Beauly?
Campbell’s is a hidden gem. One of the things that really endeared me to it. Untouched since it first started in 1858. Of course we need to tweak it here and there, but the character and charm of the store is what endears it to most who visit. We’re a country-wear specialist in the retail, and then we have our bespoke tailoring workshop above the shop making suits, jackets, trousers etc for all manner of people.
Beauly itself is a lovely little village in the Highlands, just North West of Inverness. It’s an amazing little town with an array of passionate shopkeepers plying their own trades.
Campbell’s of Beauly tailoring department
What makes Campbell’s so special?
Definitely its our history and heritage. In an age when it can be quite frustrating how the perceived “heritage” of some brands is rather cleverly marketed and ultimately inaccurate, Campbell’s truly is an historic store with a concrete history and heritage dating back to 1858. Not much has changed in store since then!
One item from Campbell’s shop that you’re coveting at the moment?
My mens Nehru gilet in navy harris tweed. We sell the style online, and we can also have them made individually in ones chosen fabric. I love harris tweed Hebrides fabric and so a smart navy option was just the number for me. My matching bespoke brief case is also accompanying me to all meetings.
Tom Owen, our now retired Head Tailor
Describe your and Nicola’s typical working day?
Roughly speaking, our roles are defined quite well in that Nicola looks after the retail day to day, I look after the tailoring, and we both do the buying. At this time of year I’m flat out with tailoring appointments for many of the estates we work with, for whom we tailor the suits for the teams that manage the land in their individual tweeds. We’re also flat out doing the retail buying for deliveries from April when the season starts to pick up.
I will generally split my time between my office and the tailoring department when I’m in and then estate visits when I’m out. Nic will split hers between her office where she manages the website and then the shop floor so she keeps her finger on the pulse of whats happening in the retail.
John, Nicola and their Cocker Spaniel, Islay
You travel a lot for work – what is your favourite place you’ve visited?
Stockholm is my favourite foreign city to visit. I’ve a lot of friends there. It’s always nice to visit and see them, and I like the size of Stockholm, a nice manageable size of city. Not too big, not too small, plenty to do. Within the UK when travelling to meet some of the estates we work with, up the Glen from Beauly in Glen Affric is pretty special, or the North Yorkshire moors are very picturesque.
What do you love most about living in the highlands?
The peace and tranquility. and its rather nice that people say hello to each other in the street! I missed that in london. And also the space. The acres of space. It’s naturally relaxing.
John & Tom
What have you learned running Campbell’s of Beauly?
Back yourself. People will always, often unintentionally, sew a seed of doubt in your mind or make you change your mind. I’ve learnt not to let this happen and to stick to the plan and what I’d originally thought. If you originally thought something, there must be a justifiable reason, so go with it. And if you are wrong, you learn from your mistakes.
And if you are going to take advice from people, I believe you want that advice to be consistent, and it has to blend nicely with your own views, so there are 4-5 people who I’ll regularly seek out the opinion of, outside of Nic and myself.
And running ones own business is rewarding, but hard work!
What aspect of working for yourself do you most enjoy?
Being my own boss. No red tape and the freedom of when to decide to work flat out, and when to decide when to take a break.
Campbell’s of Beauly & Lambswool V Neck Jumper
Who or what inspires you?
I once heard that John Timpson was on a panel of advisors, answering questions on how to make a business successful. Other panelists answered in many different ways. Mr Timpson said in a matter of fact way that there was one thing that had not been mentioned which he felt above all else was a key factor – hard work. its hard to disagree. I’ve always remembered that. That always inspires me.
Application. Dedication. Determination. with these three ingredients you won’t go far wrong.
Favourite cafes or restaurants in the Highlands?
Corner on the Square in Beauly of course! Allangrange Arms for a pub. Sutor Creek in Cromarty for a pizza. The Scourie Hotel for a great night away of great food and peace and quiet and perhaps a spot of fishing!
Favourite place in Scotland?
Other than Mum and Dad’s near Lilliesleaf, the Struie viewpoint on the Struie road (B9176). Nicola and I got engaged there.
Struie Road Viewpoint
A big thank you to Rosie for allowing us to use her interview – the original post can be viewed on her journal. You can find a small selection of her spectacular knitwear in Campbell’s of Beauly, or you can view the full range on her website.