Originally Posted by msameth
Unfortunately, you're about a decade late to the party. Ballantyne has taken quite a plunge since their acquisition in 2004 by di Montezemolo's PE group, Charme. It has become a "high-fashion life-style" brand with mediocre-quality offerings generally made in Italy and the Balkans. Four years after Charme took over Ballantyne, the original plant in Innerleithen, Caerlee Mill, was spun off from the label due to poor performance and managed as a separate partnership with Brooks Brothers and Zegna Baruffa (Zegna's yarn spinner) as principal investors. In 2010, JJ and HB 1788, as the new partnership was known, was placed into receivership and nearly everything was liquidated save the intarsia section, which was formed into a new company with Charme's backing called Caerlee Mills
. Caerlee seems to continue to supply Ballantyne on a contractual basis; you can still see a few of the signature made-in-Scotland, hand-framed diamond intarsias in their most recent collections and apparently if you go to the concept shop in Notting Hill you even can order a self-designed, made-to-measure garment from Caerlee Mill. The rest is quite disappointing.
I don't know who supplies yarn for the mainstay of Ballantyne's current production, but Todd & Duncan of Kinross was, and continues to be, the favored spinner for prestige Scottish cashmere knitters, such as John Laing, William Lockie, and Caerlee. T&D were acquired in 2009
by their principal supplier of dehaired cashmere fibers, the Ningxia Zhongyin Cashmere Co of Zhongyin, but production and management have remained at Kinross. Before the early 1990s Mongolian raw cashmere clippings, with dirt and guard hairs intact, were exported directly to Scottish processors such as T&D and Johnstons to be dehaired, scoured, and so on. Then the PRC began to exercise trade controls in order to increase the value of their exports and build a competitive domestic industry, so European spinners began to import semi-processed fibers. As the technology gap has narrowed between Chinese and European processors and spinners, many (mezzanine) European knitters today even use wholly Chinese-made yarn, albeit not without peril. In 2001 the US Consumer Protection Agency censured Clan Douglas for its cashmere sweaters made of Chinese yarn that turned out to contain 5% wool. A few European firms, in fact, have set up their own plants in Inner Mongolia to ensure tighter quality control (I think Loro Piana), but they are certainly in the minority.
These are my Ballantynes, all between 35 and 45 years old:
Even the oldest still look pristine, showing no pilling or stretching; I wash them once every few months, in a front-load machine on delicate cycle in cold water with a special shampoo, air-dried flat (no cultic/sacrificial rituals, just a bit of prudence). In my humble opinion, the quality of the old Ballantyne, Pringle, and Lyle & Scott was and remains unsurpassed. The Lockie and McGeorge I've had the opportunity to see are probably nearly there as well. I've also heard great things about Murray Allan and Laing. Pity that it's basically all been swept away.
BTW, the current Creative Director of Ballantyne is Yossi Cohen.