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Five Minutes with the Founder

Martin Brooks & Ian Holdcroft, co-founders, Shackleton

"Running Shackleton is like travelling over a crevasse field… there are hidden dangers lurking everywhere, but if you are careful and confident, you'll be ok - especially if you’re roped to someone you trust." With the days getting darker and weather warnings issued earlier this week it seems fitting that today we hear from Martin Brooks and Ian Holdcroft, co-founders of luxury adventure-wear brand Shackleton, who create expedition-grade apparel engineered for extremes. Here the founders of the 2020 Brand of Tomorrow share with us how they built their brand.
16th Dec 2020
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Five Minutes with the Founder  Martin Brooks & Ian Holdcroft, co-founders, Shackleton

Tell us about Shackleton We’re a four year business based on a century-old reputation. We design and develop expedition-grade outerwear that will save your life at minus 30 in Antarctica AND look great on Bond Street. We design in London and manufacture in the UK and Italy. We sell online and via our store on Sloane Square. We also run expedition experiences to extreme places like Finse in Norway and Antarctica.

Tell us the story of how you built your brand

Ian is an endurance athlete and Martin a long-distance sailor. We’ve both been inspired by the polar greats of the Heroic Age for pretty much all our adult lives. We met by chance in Greece, hatched a plan and quit our jobs in finance and marketing to set up Shackleton. The first task was to ask Hon. Alexandra Shackleton (Granddaughter) on board, then we registered all the trademarks and began making our first product - a very scratchy replica sweater that smelled of sheep. We then found some excellent investors, including John Smith, ex COO of Burberry and Coldplay’s Guy Berryman. In 2017, we made our first serious performance jacket, The Endurance Down Parka that’s been used to break polar records and has beaten all the usual suspects (Goose, Moncler etc) in the toughest product tests. Four years in, we have a range of 6 jackets, 9 knitwear pieces and some accessories. We work with polar explorers and adventurers all over the world and have launched and completed 2 expeditions of our own so far.

Why did you choose to set up in the luxury sector?

Luxury outerwear is a £17bn category with no British player in the top 30, so it represents a significant opportunity. It’s the fastest growing part of the outerwear category because many people are prepared to invest in pieces that will last decades, even if they do not typically buy at this level. But, ironically, most of the outerwear in the luxury bracket doesn’t actually work. We’ve always wanted to make the very best product available on the market and that has meant building to a performance level rather than a price point.

What’s your inspiration?

That’s an easy one. Our business is built on the shoulders of polar titan Sir Ernest Shackleton. He led 3 expeditions to Antarctica a century ago and is world famous for saving the lives of all 28 of his men in what’s probably the most incredible survival story of all time (soon to be told by Tom Hardy in a Hollywood epic).

His courage, optimism and leadership example is with us every day: When C-19 lockdown forced us to shutter our store we displayed one of our favourite Shackleton quotes on the window: ‘Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all… then re-opened with a replica of his 23feet lifeboat James Caird in the store.

If you could have any other job in the world…

We both left our previous jobs because we wanted to do this one.

What does success look like to you?

We want to be a highly revered global brand that’s admired for having the best product, for inspiring people to live more courageous lives and for playing an important role in protecting Antarctica.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?

Only do it if you truly, madly, deeply love it.