How to Dress for a Quest: Shackleton’s Ian Holdcroft on Great Explorers

How to Dress for a Quest: Shackleton’s Ian Holdcroft on Great Explorers

We caught up with co-founder Ian to chat guiding lights, daredevil tendencies and what being named a 2020 Brand of Tomorrow by Walpole means for Shackleton going forward.

Sir Raymond Priestley said: “For scientific discovery
give me [Robert Falcon] Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel
give me [Roald] Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is
gone, get down on your knees and pray for [Ernest] Shackleton.”

Sir Ernest Shackleton was an Anglo-Irish Antarctic explorer,
best known for leading the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition from
1914 to 1917 and the inspiration for eponymously named
adventure-wear brand. Since Shackleton’s inception in 2014, founders Ian
Holdcroft and Martin Brooks have been razor-focused on creating a
brand worthy of “the boss’s” great name.

We caught up with co-founder Ian to chat guiding lights,
daredevil tendencies and what being named a 2020 Brand of Tomorrow
by Walpole means for Shackleton going forward.

Describe the brand in three words

Courageous, pioneering, sustainable.

For the uninitiated, who was Sir Ernest Shackleton?

He is one of history’s greatest leaders. Shackleton led three
British expeditions to Antarctica between 1908 and 1922, the most
renowned being the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition from 1914 to
1917, widely regarded as one of the most extraordinary stories of
courage, leadership and survival against the odds.

His ship, Endurance, was trapped and crushed by pack ice in the
Weddell Sea, leaving the 28-man crew stranded. For months on end,
the crew lived, suffered and survived on drifting ice. They hauled
three small wooden lifeboats for miles to find open water to
escape. They eventually set off for the inhabitable and hostile
Elephant Island. When they reached dry land for the first time for
the best part of two years, Shackleton knew their only chance of
survival was to attempt a daring 1,200km voyage over the
treacherous Southern Ocean to South Georgia. Shackleton and five
crewmates made the epic journey in search of rescue. They
eventually made it to a whaling station at Stromness. Shackleton
returned to Elephant Island some 137 days after leaving, to rescue
the rest of his crew.

He was a remarkable leader, able to inspire others to achieve
and believe the seemingly impossible, and his optimism was
relentless. But he was not reckless. He was nicknamed “Old
Cautious” by his men and described as someone who was “realistic
about circumstances but optimistic about outcomes.” Shackleton was
known for weighing up the options in every situation – the
wellbeing of his crew meant more to him than success and fame, as
demonstrated during his Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909), when he
turned back less than 100 nautical miles short of the South Pole
and eternal glory.

Is there a story behind the Shackleton logo?

In his final diary entry, the night of his death, Shackleton
wrote, “In the darkening twilight I saw a lone star hover gem-like
above the bay.”

Following his burial, Frank Wild, Shackleton’s close friend and
second-in-command on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition
chiselled a nine-pointed star into Shackleton’s gravestone in
Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica.. This symbol meant a lot to
Shackleton; he was quite a superstitious man and had noted that the
figure nine recurred in his life. Our logo is a modern adaptation
of this.

Where are you from and how has that shaped or inspired

I was born in Stoke-on-Trent and moved to the edge of the
as a young boy. I was fortunate to be surrounded by
beautiful and dramatic scenery and spent much of my time playing
sports and being outdoors. Although I didn’t realise it at the
time, it was days spent exploring the bleak moorlands and
scrambling on the rocky ridges of The Roaches, where my thirst for
adventure began.

I live in central London
now, but I love nothing more than putting on my trail-running shoes
and running for hours. Being brought up in a community built on the
textile and clothing industry, I sometimes wonder if it was my
destiny to build a brand combining my passion for endurance sports,
adventure and the outdoors with clothing.

What drives you?

Legacy. To play a part in creating a very special brand and
organisation, a brand that resonates with people and is revered
around the world. Shackleton represents courage, pioneering spirit
and sustainability – we want to be the world’s most respected and
desirable brand in luxury, sustainable, high-performance

What does it mean to you for Shackleton to be named a “Brand of
Tomorrow” by Walpole?

There are so many incredible British luxury brands emerging, to
be recognised alongside them – including SUITCASE – is an honour.
So much hard work goes into building a business and being named as
a “Brand of Tomorrow” was evidence we’re doing some things right.
We have a lot to learn, but it’s an incredibly exciting journey to
be on. Walpole has been very supportive throughout 2020, especially
considering the circumstances and challenges many businesses and
people have faced.

What’s the first piece of Shackleton kit you’d put in your bag
for a weekend escapade?

Now, that’s a tough question. I love all our products. I’ll go
with the Titan Gilet because it’s lightweight, packable,
versatile and warm. It can be worn throughout the year as a mid
layer or top layer. It looks fantastic and performs incredibly well
in any climate.

What are the hallmarks of Shackleton clothing?

We combine luxury refinement and style with best-in-class
performance. Our pieces are made in the UK and Italy, and tested in

. We’re introducing more and more recycled and
recyclable materials, including a jacket made from reclaimed ocean

You developed the world’s first extreme-weather photographer’s
jacket in partnership with Leica Camera AG. How did this come

The CMO of Leica first saw Shackleton in Harvey Nichols in
London in 2018. He loved our attention to detail, our approach to
product design and development and how we sourced the finest
manufacturing partners to engineer our garments. It was an amazing
collaboration working alongside Leica and world-renowned expedition
photographer, Martin Hartley, to develop the jacket. We’re
currently working on another, all-year-round photographer’s jacket
with Leica. It will launch in 2021.

Tell us about Shackleton Quests…

As a modern, luxury brand it’s crucial we connect with our
global audience through offering experiences, as well as products.
Quests are mini-expedition experiences led by world-renowned,
record-breaking explorer, Shackleton Director of Expeditions Louis
Rudd MBE. The first “polar” experiences will hopefully be in Finse,
Norway in March 2021, followed by more Quests in extreme locations,
such as Antarctica.

Your products are tested in the Arctic and Antarctica. What
does that process entail?

Testing is a crucial part of the development process. But even
before the design phase, we seek Louis’s expert insight into what
makes a product perform in the extremes. He’s a record-breaking
polar explorer and served in British Special Forces for 27 years,
and an expert in human performance in extreme environments. We will
also be combining Quests with field testing, giving our guests the
opportunity to wear and test new Shackleton products before they

What are you reading at the moment?

The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts.

What are your travel essentials?

Rolex GMT-Master II, trail-running shoes, Julbo Vermont Classic
sunglasses, iPhone.

Do you consider yourself a daredevil?

I’ve run across the Atacama
in Chile and rowed across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa
to the Caribbean. I guess that’s kind of daredevil-ish in some

Where’s your next adventure?

I can’t give too much away. It’s going to be a world-first
attempt and will, if successful, establish a number of world
records. More importantly, with science and discovery at the heart
of the expedition, it will bring the world’s attention to an
evolving environmental crisis in the most pristine corner of the
planet. There are a number of Covid-related logistical challenges
to overcome, but we’re confident we’ll be underway in December

What’s next for Shackleton?

Our focus is firmly on designing and building sustainable
products – working with recycled and recyclable materials,reclaimed
plastics and partnering with the finest manufacturers around the
world. We’ll be announcing a major collaboration in 2021. Plus,
we’ll build on the initial success of Quests and launch more
adventure experiences across the globe. Beyond that, build a rocket
and explore the universe. That’s what The Boss, Sir Ernest
Shackleton would do.

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