Saturday, 16 December 2017

Rowing into fashion

A NEW clothing brand will launch its first store in Henley today (Friday).

A NEW clothing brand will launch its first store in Henley today (Friday).

Olympic gold medallist Alex Gregory and Team GB rower Vicky Thornley have been chosen as brand ambassadors for Dashwood Boat Club in Hart Street.

The shop’s interior has been designed to look like a traditional boat club. It includes a gym-themed room which stocks casual basics as well as a “club house”, which includes the brand’s formal collection.

Founder and managing director Richard Cross, 33, said: “Our first shop had to be in Henley because it’s the home of rowing.

“I came and had a look at this shop on the Friday of the regatta last year and the town was teaming and so I thought it would work. I’ve always wanted to run a clothing brand and I guess with rowing I found my reason.

“I wanted it to have an identity and rowing is such a fantastic sport and it is something we are good at in this country, which makes it popular and more appealing. It’s also a very easy sport to design a clothing range for as it has a very defined uniform — blazers and chinos for the men and dresses for the ladies.”

The brand’s first collection includes blazers designed by Savile Row tailor Chris Ingham and silk ties made in Suffolk. Every garment has Henley-on-Thames printed on its tag.

The range was launched with a photo-shoot at Upper Thames Rowing Club using the two GB rowers as models.

Mr Cross, who lives in Twyford, said: “We’ve given it a local connection and I really hope the people of Henley will be proud of what we are doing.”

He has worked in retail since he left university. He previously ran the clothing brand Pukka and managed the men’s casual wear department at Selfridges as well as several Jack Wills stores across the country.

An honours board with the names of people who have helped Mr Cross set up his business will be hung on the wall of the shop, including his friend Alistair Heathcote, who won a silver medal in the GB men’s eight at the Beijing Olympics.

Mr Cross, who rowed for Cornwall Boat Club when he was a teenager, first considered Dashwood for the brand’s name when he visited a beach of the same name in Antigua.

He later found out that there is a family of Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility and it is the middle name of English rower Claude Goldie, whom Cambridge University’s Boat Club’s second boat is named after.

He said: “There were just so many reasons to call it Dashwood that it felt right.”

The brand’s design team is already working on an autumn/winter collection and Mr Cross hopes to open a second shop this year.

Mrs Cross said: “Wherever the store goes, the clothes will always say Henley on them. It’s just the most gorgeous place to do business.

“I walked along the towpath the other day and there was someone rowing past me and the town was looking glorious and I thought, ‘this is why you start a business’.

“It has been a lot of hard work but moments like that are what it’s all about.”

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