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Henri-Lloyd 2022 December - SW LEADERBOARD

60 years of innovation: When did you discover Henri-Lloyd?

by Mark Jardine 10 Mar 12:00 UTC
One of the Henri-Lloyd stickers I picked up from Mr Henri at the 1982 London Boat Show © Mark Jardine

60 years, six decades, three score. However you say it, it's a long time, especially when so much has changed in the intervening years since 1963. Throughout that time there has been a single watchword summing up Henri-Lloyd: Innovation.

Everyone has their time where they 'discovered' the brand. For me it was as a kid in 1982 at the London Boat Show, held at Earl's Court. I was collecting stickers, and Mr Henri was happy to give me a few Henri-Lloyd stickers - one which I recently re-found! I already knew the clothing as my dad wore it sailing, and still had his British Sailing Team kit from the 1972 Olympics, but this was when I first really connected with it.

Henri-Lloyd is a brand which has been at the forefront of sailing technology and worn by countless inshore and offshore sailors throughout the intervening years. I've had many great moments wearing Henri-Lloyd, not least the Henri-Lloyd Frostbite Challenge, held in Marstrand, Sweden on a cold but sunny December weekend in 2019, and I know that many of our readers will have fond memories from their experiences.

So, when did you discover Henri-Lloyd? What memories do you have from the time? Here's a brief history of just some of the highlights from the past 60 years of the iconic brand...

Henri Strzelecki, universally know as 'Mr Henri', founded the company in 1963, using the new Bri-nylon fabric to create lightweight, flexible foul weather clothing for sailors and adventurers. At the time fabrics were just stitched, creating a ready path for water to infiltrate protective clothing, but Mr Henri created a durable waterproof seam by gluing a tape over the seam with pressure applied by hand. It was a simple idea, replacing the previous solution of varnishing seams (yes, you read that right, varnishing!). His new solution is in use to this day.

This was the first of many innovations for Henri-Lloyd. The use of Velcro, non-corrosive zips, and integrated harnesses in jackets, all followed.

The great explorers and adventurers recognised the qualities and advantage that Henri-Lloyd clothing could give them with, between 1966 and 1969, Sir Francis Chichester wearing the Consort jacket on Gipsy Moth IV to sail single-handedly, Sir Alec Rose wearing Henri-Lloyd on Lively Lady, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston becoming the first person to sail non-stop single-handed around the world on Suhaili, wearing the Henri-Lloyd Consort jacket.

Success and innovation continued through the 1970s, with the British Sailing Team wearing Henri-Lloyd at the 1972 Olympic Games, and Clare Francis wearing Henri-Lloyd when setting a new women's single-handed transatlantic record in 1976.

Awards followed in the 1980s, with Mr Henri being awarded an MBE in 1985, and Henri-Lloyd receiving The Queen's Award for Export Achievement in 1986 and 1987.

1987 also saw Dennis Conner winning back the America's Cup during the celebrated series in Fremantle. The entire crew wore Henri-Lloyd, with the famous navy blue and red stripes seen across their jackets for the first time, and definitely not for the last.

Forays into fashionwear followed, and it was in the 1990s that Henri-Lloyd launched Black Label, the Italian-inspired sportswear collection by Massimo Goggi, using technically innovative fabrics. This led to Henri-Lloyd being awarded 1997 Fashion Brand of the Year in the UK.

In the late 90s, a young sailor was making waves in the Laser class, and was quickly recognised by Henri-Lloyd. This was the start of a 25-years and counting relationship between the brand and a certain Ben Ainslie, who of course went on to become the most successful Olympic sailor ever, and is now striving to win the America's Cup for Great Britain, as well as competing on the SailGP circuit.

The innovation and recognition continued at the start of the new millennium, with the award-winning Optivision hood and Blue Eco winning a highly-regarded DAME Award at the METSTRADE show in Amsterdam for the most eco-friendly product.

Creating responsible technical clothing has become a key pillar for Henri-Lloyd, with the team continually striving to do better in all areas of production, with every step analysed to see where the brand can improve: responsible and sustainable suppliers, reduced travel for materials and production, organic cottons, innovative dyeing techniques, easily recyclable packaging and a repair service - all aiming to reduce our impact on the planet.

Partnerships continued to thrive, with the Henri-Lloyd yacht winning the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 2014, and becoming technical clothing supplier to the British America's Cup challenger Land Rover BAR in 2017, skippered by the now Sir Ben Ainslie.

The current partnership with the GBR SailGP Team works on many fronts and is underpinned by the ethos of 'Where performance meets responsibility'. The official range is Henri-Lloyd's most environmentally-responsible to date, and continues to demonstrate how the brand will stop at nothing to innovate and do better. Henri-Lloyd is truly a story of sixty years of innovation and will no doubt continue to be in the future.

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