Most companies are named to bring glory to the owner. Not so Grenfell, which takes its
moniker from theremarkableman whose
needsand deeds inspired theestablishmentofthis British
manufacturer of robust cloth and outerwear.
Grenfell,the brand,begins in1892,whenDr. Wilfred Grenfell
first landedon the Newfoundland coast of Canada. There, Grenfell acted as a
medical missionary, ministeringto thephysical
and spiritualrequirements of colonial
fishermenand the indigenous Inuit people,all
ofwhomhe described assuffering in extreme “poverty, ignorance and
semi-starvation”.Thoughriddled withtuberculosis, smallpox, rickets, anemia, scurvy
and diphtheria, many in thescatteredcommunityof 30,000hadin factnever seen a
doctor before Grenfell’s arrival.
To alleviate theirmiseryandtreattheir
ills,Grenfellnot only provided medical care personally,butspearheaded the building of hospitals,schools,workers’ cooperatives,libraries,orphanages, and other essentialelements ofhumanitarian and social infrastructure.Heand his small team of medical volunteers would regularly risk life and limb to travel via
husky-driven sled to remote locations to provide essential care,Grenfell himselfnarrowly escaping death on countless
occasions.For hisselflessworks,hewas knighted in 1927.
A few years earlier,the good doctorhadconducted a speaking
tour of Britain, in an attempt to raise awareness of the Canadian fishing community’s struggles and drum up funds
for further philanthropic activities. Among the numerous basics lacked by the residents of Newfoundland and the
Labrador Peninsula, Grenfell explained, was suitable attire towithstand the
forbidding climate of this remote wilderness.
During a talk inBurnley, Lancashire,Grenfell— who once had to
kill and skin three of his dogs, wearing their pelts as coats to survive a night adrift on the ice —discussed the need for a cloth that was both light and strong, as“the wearer’s life might well depend on it. It should be
weatherproof, to turn both rain and snow, andwindproof to retain the
wearer’s warmth. Above all, it must allow the body’smoisture to escape.”
Fortuitously, in the audience thateveningwas WalterHaythornthwaite,
heir to a family-owned cotton-weaving mill nearBurnley.Spurred to action, hebegan
developinga tightlyspun, super
high-densitycottonthat fulfilledGrenfell’s tricky triple criteria of toughness, impermeability and breathability. After 12
months’ experimentation,Haythornthwaitefelt he’d
succeeded and sent a sample of thecutting-edgematerial to Grenfell in Canada.
Grenfell was delighted with thefabricand immediately put it to work “on the ships, planes, sledges and for motoring,” he
wrotein a letter of thankstoHaythornthwaite. “It really has been a boon to us all and I
think the public should know of it. They will be grateful,” Grenfell said, agreeing to lend his name to what would
soon becomerenowned as Grenfell Cloth.Thismiracle material would be used by countless adventurers,
includingAmelia Earhart and fellowaviatrix Amy
speedstersStirlingMoss,Malcolm Campbell and son Donald.
In the 1940s, just a few years after 75-year-old Sir Wilfred Grenfell died peacefully in
his sleep, the companynamed in hishonourbranched out from
simply milling textiles and started producing its own outerwear.They continue to
do so today, under the stewardshipof theAzamfamily. Since acquiring
the brand in 2002,theAzamshave transformed what was
for some time a dormant concern into a thriving purveyor of top quality weather-resistant garments.
Now produced at a factory in east London, Grenfell’scontemporary range focuses on four key areas: trench and raincoats, field/country coats,
overcoats, and casual jackets. Each garment is overseen by an individual craftsperson, responsible for ensuring the
quality of its composition and construction — guaranteeing the performance and
durability of any Grenfellitemyou order from The
The great humanitarian Dr. Grenfell himself once said,
“The purpose of this world is not to have and hold, but to serve.”In that spirit, please, allow us to gladly satisfy your outerwear requirements.