In today’s fashion lexicon, where terminology such as ‘sports-luxe’ and ‘athleisurewear’ abound, it’s easy to forget that the marrying of sport and style hasn’t always seemed such a natural fit. But in recent years, a casual ease that owes its aesthetic to the sporting life has infused our wardrobes, like never before, with relaxed silhouettes, dynamic accents and technical fabrics. And while millennials might credit this as a new phenomenon, British house Henri Lloyd has long been at the forefront of a mode of attire that’s built for the ocean-going life, melding technically accomplished activewear with an inherent style that’s just as suited to sipping a gin and tonic on deck, as it is to donning a layer as the sun sets.
Founded in 1963 by fabric specialist Henri Strzelecki and entrepreneur Angus Lloyd, it was the former’s work with Manchester mills and his developing of certain cloths and coatings to withstand an array of conditions that immediately marked the Henri Lloyd brand out as an innovator in the world of yachting attire. Experiments with man-made materials, such as Velcro, Bri-Nylon and Gore-Tex swiftly followed, carving out a niche as a boundary pusher in what was one of Britain’s most experimental decades in fashion, with King’s Road and Carnaby Street shaking up London and a youthful new mood taking hold. The approach was nothing short of revolutionary; the notion of man-made fabrics being somewhat subpar was turned on its head as Henri Lloyd explored new possibilities.
This sense of zeitgeist clearly informed the brand, building up a solid repertoire of weatherproof jackets, breezy shirting and sleek activewear built for life on the waves. That sense of solidity was in no doubt due to Strzelecki’s history as a soldier in the Polish army, used to relying on heavy-duty, functional clothing.
And if proof were needed of Henri Lloyd’s marine credentials, the brand forged a host of partnerships with races and events – from the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race to Falmouth Regatta – and the clothing was swiftly adopted by the likes of Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Ranulph Fiennes; in marine terms, a pretty stellar seal of style approval, by any measure. It’s testament to the brand’s enduring appeal and ability to cater to the most demanding circumstances (and adventurers) that at some of boat racing’s most historic moments, the distinctive Henri Lloyd logo has been visible. Henri Lloyd is the official technical clothing supplier for the Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) team, providing performance and also a sense of panache.
And as Henri Lloyd steers itself into the 21st century with its roster of outerwear and everyday pieces, its particular brand of preppiness is resonating across fashion in general this season. With spring/summer catwalks awash with the East Coast collegiate aesthetic and echoes of JFK yachting in Nantucket, the fashion house has been sailing in these waters for decades. And like all the best brands of this ilk – Ralph Lauren being perhaps the best counterpart in the USA – the secret to Henri Lloyd’s success has always been to create a seductive, utterly covetable lifestyle, of salty sea air and the dash and vim of the life aquatic. Whether repelling a tropical rainstorm or lounging on a glass-still sea, Henri Lloyd has – for nearly 60 years – acted as a particularly stylish first mate.