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Originally started in 1923 the Grenfell brand evolved out of thedevelopment of its namesake ‘wonder-fabric’, created specifically to meet the outerwear needs of British pioneer, philanthropist and missionary doctor, Sir Wilfred Grenfell.
The first thread of the idea was born during a talk given by Sir Wilfred Grenfell in 1922 in a Burnley hall. Walter Haythornthwaite, son of Burnley weaving mill owner Thomas Haythornthwaite, attended, and struck by Sir Grenfell’s words “clothing must be wind-proof but must breath”, decides to create a fabric made for harsh environments. Sir Wilfred loved the cloth, and lent his name to the ‘wonder-fabric’.
Over the following decades the brand saw meteoric growth and use all around the globe; garments made using the cloth were worn by British Royalty, racing car drivers, adventurers and aviatrixes, outdoorsmen, sportsmen and style icons, including Sir Malcolm Campbell, Sir Stirling Moss, Cary Grant and Gregory Peck.
Below is a brief history of our feats.
1923Grenfell Cloth’s World Premiere
Grenfell Cloth was made available for public use after Sir Wilfred Grenfell had tested the cloth on his most recent expedition.
" We use it constantly on the ships, on the planes, on the sledges and motoring. It does not wear out and we cannot afford to take chances - much less dare we recommend to anyone else anything that would fail them at a pinch." - Sir Wilfred Grenfell
Sir Wilfred Grenfell also lent his name to the cloth, and thus the Grenfell brand was born.
1924Fastest Man on Land
Sir Malcolm Campbell breaks the land speed record for the first time, clocking 146.16 mph at Pendine Sands in a 350HP V12 Sunbeam, all whilst wearing his Grenfell Cloth racing suit. This was the first of many records set by Sir Malcolm.
1926Flight to the North Pole
Admiral Byrd embarked on a mission to fly over the North Pole in his Grenfell Cloth flying suit. The flight lasted fifteen hours and fifty-seven minutes, covering 1,335 nautical miles.
When asked about his flying suit, he simply stated, “The finest cloth we have found for our particular purpose.”
1931Birth of the Golfing Jacket
Grenfell design and manufacture the first all-weather golf jacket in Grenfell Cloth, later to become the Golfer and Harrington styles.
One of the first Harringtons’ was presented to the then Prince of Wales, Prince Edward VIII marking the beginning of the brands relationship with the Royal Household.
1932First Transatlantic Solo Female Flight
Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, landing on Irish shores 15 hours after takeoff from Newfoundland, in her specially-made Grenfell Cloth flying suit.
1933Reaching New Heights
A team led by Hugh Ruttledge which consisted of F.S. Smythe and Eric Shipton embarked upon an expedition to the peak of Mount Everest. Grenfell Cloth was commissioned to be the fabric of choice throughout the journey and was used to produce clothing, bags, tents and various other supplies for the journey.
One of the tents made from Grenfell Cloth set the record for the highest habitation man had ever pitched on earth at 27,400 ft.
1934Grenfell on the Green
Sir Henry Cotton wins his first Open Championship Golf tournament whilst wearing his Grenfell Cloth Golfer jacket. This was the first of 3 Open Championship wins in his Grenfell jackets.
1935Breaking the 300mph barrier
Sir Malcolm Campbell returns in his Grenfell racing suit to set what would be his final land speed record. Returning to Bonneville Salt Flats in his updated Campbell-Railton Blue Bird, he became the first person to drive an automobile over 300 mph.
1935US & UK Ryder Cup
Both the UK and victorious US Ryder Cup teams sport Grenfell Cloth Golfing jackets during the world renowned tournament.
1935Grenfell available Worldwide
Grenfell rain coats, trench coats and golfing jackets begin retailing in some of the world’s most famous department stores, including Harrods of Knightsbridge.
1939-45Grenfell Supplies the British Army
Due to the fast growth of Grenfell Cloth and Coats, Grenfell began to supply the RAF, Army and Navy. As well as using Grenfell Cloth for the Mae West life jackets.
1952Gold at the Winter Olympics
Both the Norwegian and British Olympic Ski Jumping Teams were outfitted with Grenfell Cloth Ski suits at the 1952 Winter Olympics held in Oslo, Norway. Norwegian Ski Jumper Arnfinn Bergmann went on to win Gold alongside his team mate, Torbjørn Falkanger, who won Silver.
1953Conquering Mount Everest
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay become the first men in history to summit the world’s highest mountain at 29,028 feet (8,847 m) above sea level. The team was led by Sir John Hunt who awaited their return from the top. The climbing team all wore Grenfell.
Mr Hillary described the peak, as "a symmetrical, beautiful snow cone summit".
1953Gregory Peck and the Cresta Run
Gregory Peck takes what is arguably the most terrifying luge around, the Cresta Run at St. Moritz, Switzerland. Gregory wore his Grenfell Cloth Walker jacket to protect him from the bracing wind whilst hurting headfirst down the icy run.
1955Sir Stirling Moss
Tour de force race car driver Sir Stirling Moss sets a winning streak dominating the competition worldwide, wearing his Grenfell Cloth Racing Suit. 1955 marks the year that Sir Stirling won the mille miglia race in Italy.
1958Royal Warrant Approval
Grenfell is awarded a Royal Warrant in recognition of previous feats and supplying the Royal Household.
Pictured are HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Princess Royal both wearing their Grenfell jackets as young children.
1963Cary Grant Premieres in Grenfell
Cary Grant wears his trusted Grenfell rain coat as he premieres Charade, the comedy thriller classic, in Cannes.
Donald Campbell wears his Grenfell Cloth racing suit to break both land and water speed records, and becomes the first person to break both records in the same year. This milestone achievement is yet to be beaten.
1978Sir David Attenborough’s Gorilla Encounter
Sir David Attenborough records his historic encounter with a family of mountain gorillas in one of the most iconic TV moments of all time. The moment captured Sir David wearing his Grenfell Cloth Walker jacket whilst filming Life on Earth in Rwanda.
Click here to see a clip of this groundbreaking moment.
The return of the brand to British shores marks the re-establishment of Grenfell's roots in the UK. Grenfell continues to honour the highest standards of British design and craftsmanship.
2016Introducing Modern Classics
Grenfell officially relaunches with new, state of the art, manufacturing facilities in East London. Each seasonal collection pays tribute to its rich archives by reworking iconic styles so that they suit the lifestyle of the modern man. These interpretations have come to be known as the 'Modern Classics'
2018HRH The Princess Royal Opens Grenfell Factory
HRH The Princess Royal officially opens the East London Grenfell factory; a momentous occasion establishing Grenfell as a pillar of the British garment manufacturing industry.