The Story

"A photo of my mother and myself at the age of two, in a row boat on Lake Wanaka, must surely be the beginning of my love affair with the Otago hinterland."

Inspired by the natural beauty of New Zealand’s Central Otago region, Southern Lakes Tartan is a testament to one woman’s passion for the area, her family and her craft. This is her story.

After wonderful days of tramping, camping and holidaying in the area, I am now settled here for keeps.

Surrounded by such beauty, I was inspired to do something creative for my family. As a long-time weaver with a loom and some time, I embarked on a fun project with the colours of the Southern Lakes District.

I finally settled on a design which was, for me, an expression of the area’s beauty. The majestic mountains with snow-capped peaks, the golden tussocks, and the soft blue waters of the lakes were truly inspirational. And so I created a special tartan for my family.

Soon after, an upholster who saw the tartan persisted that I register it in Scotland. So, with the blessing of the Queenstown Lakes District Mayor and approval from Scotland, my design became the official registered tartan for New Zealand’s Southern Lakes district.

"What began as a gift for my family has now evolved into a gift for a region."

The Designer

"Craft was a way of life for me, growing up during the Depression. The necessity to make our own clothes and such meant that handcrafting skills were the norm."

Growing up in Dunedin, Shona always had a flair for creativity. And so, after gaining her fine art preliminary exam, she studied and later taught at the Dunedin School of Art.

However, with an urge to travel post WWII, Shona took off overseas after two years of teaching and based herself in London. Whilst there, she honed her crafting skills and studied at the Royal School of Needlework and the London School of Weaving.

When she returned to New Zealand, Shona took up her teaching role once again at the Dunedin School of Art before getting married and starting a family in 1951.

Over time, Shona was an inaugural member of both the Otago Spinners & Weavers Guild and the Otago Embroiderers Guild, before later becoming president.

Shona lived in Wanaka for many many years and continued to work in textiles and loved every minute of it. At the age of 88 she designed this tartan, a dream she had held for many years. She is an inspiration to her craft and to all on living a meaningful life.  In July, 2019 after a creative, full and interesting life Shona passed away peacefully in her favourite chair with her beloved mountain view, at the ripe old age of 93.

A beautiful legacy is left behind and Shona’s spirit will live on with her Tartan. To keep the Southern Lakes Tartan thriving, contemporary, and alive, Shona's daughter Hilary manages the small boutique business, while Karen, a longtime friend of Shona's, is on the ground in Wanaka, taking care of the dispatch of our beautiful tartan.

The Crafters

"Creating and then having my Southern Lakes Tartan registered in Scotland has been a real thrill."

When we began looking for weavers to craft our collection, it was important that we supported New Zealand’s primary wool industry and kept the production process as distinctive as the design.

So, with quality as our guide, we took Shona’s design to three carefully chosen weaving mills who create the finest fabrics, which we then send to exquisite artisans to form our fabrics into designer pieces for you to enjoy.

Our Weavers

With quality and the wish to keep all the tartan production in Aotearoa we have taken Shona's design to 2 reputable weaving establishments.

Stansborough Mill 

Stansborough Mill have a traditional weaving mill just outside of Wellington. Recognised worldwide for their award-winning fabric design for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, they are also renowned for their commitment to traditional methods with their worsted looms harking back to the 1890s.

Producers of high-end and sustainable textiles, the skilled artisans at Stansborough Mill individually craft small batches of our artisan throws, hats and cushion fabrics.

Inter-weave Ltd

New Zealand’s leading commercial manufacturer of quality woven wool fabrics, Inter-weave specialise in the design and production of high-end interior furnishing fabrics.

Using leading technology, custom designs and unique wool yarns with luxury fibres, Inter-weave carefully create our traditional rug and upholstery/curtain fabrics from their headquarters in Auckland.

Inter-weave manufactures our scarf, traditional rug, and fabrics for upholstery and designer products.

Our Makers

Mavis & Osborn

Tamzin Hawkins, director of Mavis & Osborn, is a designer and maker of boutique homewares and bespoke fashion pieces. Based in Nelson, Tamzin crafts high quality pieces for the Southern Lakes Tartan range in limited editions. It’s been great to work alongside White Label with our product ideas and see them become the top end product we offer you today. Together, we’ve developed our hip flasks, cushions, bags, dog covers, baby blankets, and duster bags.

Hills Hats

Wellington based Hills Hats are New Zealand’s leading hat makers since 1875. We’re fortunate and pleased to have such skilled and traditional hat engineers in New Zealand to  craft our cheese cutter and beret headwear.

Parisian ties

We love to work with Parisian Ties in the creation of our Southern Lakes Tartan necktie and bowtie. They’re New Zealand’s finest tie manufacturers, with four generations of tie makers mastering the craft since 1919. Our bespoke tartan ties are hand finished with fine detailing to compliment its wearer.

Just Kilts

Alayne Aburn of Just Kilts artfully hand stitches our custom kilts from her Mosgiel workplace. With years of experience and an exclusive set of skills, Alayne is a master of her craft. Her workmanship is on show in the kilts worn by the Queenstown Lake’s District’s pipe band, as well as at the most stylish of weddings. 

Warp yarns on looms ready to be woven at Inter-weave

Traditional weaving mill at Stansborough, just outside of Wellington.

“I do hope you enjoy my tartan.”

Shona Johnstone