Capsule Paris – GRENFELL
He visited Lancashire Mill owners and took on the challenge to try and better the lightweight Gabardine product currently being produced, and sourced by Aquascutum. What they came up with became the ‘Gortex’ of its time, lightweight, weather-resistant and it took off – the fabric of choice worn by racers, as their ‘racing suit’, aviators and the army. The pioneering developments produced fibres that interlocked when wet and were more robust: a superior fabric.
In 1931 Grenfell produced the first all-weather golf jacket, worn by Sir Henry Cotton who won the British Open 3 times. On the Everest expedition Grenfell Cloth was used in the tents; Military Spitfire test pilots and fighter pilots wore Grenfell Cloth. And if all those Roy of the Rovers and Hornet comics’ publicity attributes wasn’t enough to propel the brand to international stardom, the likes of two of the biggest Hollywood stars, Cary Grant and Gregory Peck wore their Trench Coat in the 60s.
It just has UK heritage, provenance central coming out of its tightly woven fibred history and wonderful to appreciate. There is and always has been ‘Racings obsession with Grenfell’ with associate partnerships with Goodwood, alongside Bluebird and its telltale logo, Cordings and Mens File. And you realize the brand has made its mark synonymously with key aspects of our history and ‘coming-of-age’ boys-own stories, growing up admiring brand wearers to identifying and wearing it as a lifestyle choice themselves.
Sadly for them, when the Barbour took off it kind of pushed them off their perch and so in the late 1980s the company was bought by a Japanese cashmere specialist company and now 85% of the business is in Japan in all the great Japanese stores. The focus now, in part is to get the home market going with their first ‘Renaissance’ season collection. “We loved Pitti,” says Gary Burnand, Commercial Director who gave me the complete run down of the brand and its history. Say no more as the de facto annual men’s show, so did I. But I was greatly appreciating this brand’s UK history while in Paris also.
One of the hallmarks of great brands is when they introduce garments whose names are synonymous with a look, a style
(lifestyle) and a function. ‘The Shooter” evolved from a field jacket to the ultimate guys travel jacket, co-branded with Cordings as the fabric provider. The “Bluebird” range, worn by Donald Wales (speed enthusiast), grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell who broke the land speed record in The Bluebird, was just dropped into the convo, and it’s that just that kind of seamless, notable brand helping to join the dots on key sporting achievements. The sourcing of materials is quite wide, including UK, Italy, and Germany with most of the technical innovation done in Asia.
(Image right: Gary Burnand, Commercial Director Grenfell proudly showing the Sir Malcolm Campbell spread in ‘Men’s File’ magazine, decked in Grenfell.)
Unafraid to go back to their origins for their collections sourcing Wolverine fur, taken from Inuit outerwear and which doesn’t freeze against the skin and their own designs; and Alpaca Duffel coat lined with Grenfell cloth; Keepers Tweed Harrington jackets, (£295) our timeless UK staple for all age groups. A look through the Grenfell ranges will reveal that Keepers Tweed is used in a number of designs including the Ascot Keepers Tweed Covert Coat £650; the classic Campbell Cotton Raincoat (£650) and new County Coat (£550) both with their hallmark two-tone iridescent lustre. Of course they are in all the big US stores you can think of – Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, etc. The other good news is they have a relatively new factory in Leyton, London and have made for Burberry in the past. Great to see a timeless UK brand transition smoothly into a relevant, contemporary aesthetic without losing any of its traditional values and quality as a key outerwear menswear brand.
By Paul Markevicius