Anywhere All ConditionsGear
Stories Behind the Gear: Gill – In pursuit of High-performance
How Nick Gill transformed his passion for sailing into a world-leading multi-discipline marine clothing brand.
Written by Harriet Osborne // Photography Courtesy of Gill
We chat to Gill’s Product Development Director, Matt Clark, and Marketing Director, Sally Streeting, about how founder Nick Gill transformed his passion for sailing into a world-leading multi-discipline marine clothing brand, prioritising performance, safety, and durability to withstand one of the most challenging, remote, and extreme environments on the planet.
Nick Gill grew up in landlocked Nottingham, three hours away from the sea, with no sailing gear to his name. But that didn’t deter him away from the sport. Instead, it inspired him to make his own sailing apparel in the corner of his father’s textile factory in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, in 1975. Gill quickly gained a reputation for quality, and within five years, he developed a range of groundbreaking garments for Britain’s first America’s Cup sailing team. By 1989, Gill’s innovative spirit reached new heights by introducing the world’s first two-piece dinghy suit, transforming the sailing clothing category.
Today, Gill is a world-leading name in marine apparel. Although Nick stepped away from the business in 2013, his pursuit of excellence lives on in the ambitious team. ‘We like to think of ourselves as a progressive, inquisitive, and forward-thinking team of problem-solvers,’ Product Development Director Matt Clark told us. ‘There is always a better solution, and designs can always be improved. We love working with athletes, teams, and organisations that challenge us to push the boundaries of innovation and force us to think differently.’
Rather than using branded fabrics in their collections, Gill works directly with leading fabric developers. ‘If a fabric needs to be lighter, tougher, or more breathable, we have the freedom to customise and better meet the needs of the end user.’ This freedom has enabled the brand to evolve and adapt to consumer trends and preferences. ‘Our collection is designed to meet the varying needs of multiple sailing and watersports disciplines from the extreme solo ocean racer to the weekend club dinghy sailor and novice paddleboarder.’
On one end of the scale is the OS1 Ocean jacket, made for sailors facing the toughest Ocean conditions imaginable. Constructed with the brand’s XPLORE+® 3-Layer, durable and waterproof fabric, the jacket features a double cuff system, ocean-height collar, and a fully adjustable hood to keep out high-pressure water driven by waves, wind, and spray. Photo-luminescent reflectors, hi-vis accents, attachment points for personal locator beacons (PLBs) attachment points, and rescue tools offer visibility and safety. The jacket made its maiden voyage around the world worn by sailor Louis Burton in the Vendee Globe yacht race in 2020.
Back on dry land, the Langland is a comfortable tech hoodie with an XPEL finish – a chemical-free, water and stain-repellent which offers the highest level of protection against the elements. The Portland and Shannon Jackets provide an extra layer of warmth, made with water-repellent duck down and protected by a stitch-free outer fabric with a water-repellent finish for the boat park or between races.
To communicate their breadth of expertise, Gill launched an ‘Anywhere All Conditions’ campaign, which provides a meaningful way to connect with their consumers in sailing, paddlesports and fishing. ‘Our ethos is to be known as the ‘go-to’ apparel brand for everyone who loves outdoor water-based activities,’ says Marketing Director Sally Streeting. ‘We’ve spent so long designing technical clothing, having learnt from the most extreme conditions in sailing. We really do equip anyone wearing a Gill product with technical apparel that works.’
As a marine brand, Gill has a vested interest in protecting the ocean. They are honest enough not to claim they have all the answers but demonstrate many incremental changes that collectively make an impact. The brand has taken steps to eliminate single-use plastics from its supply chain by reducing their use (their new wetsuit packaging uses 75% less plastic) or eliminating them altogether (over 20% of styles are now plastic-free). Gill has also offset their carbon emissions for the past two years by investing in reforesting projects.
Over a third of their collections feature recycled, renewable or plant-based materials. They recently transformed the OS2 Offshore into the world’s most sustainable sailing suit, using 98 per cent recycled materials. ‘Our guiding aim is to reduce our impact on the planet and its resources, and we continually challenge ourselves each time we make design decisions as we create new collections,’ says Matt.
Gill’s products are also built to last. The brand has a dedicated technical team responsible for quality assurance and guaranteeing that every Gill garment performs as expected. Matt explains, ‘Every OS2 Jacket and Salopette is individually pressure tested on every taped seam before they can be approved for shipping which is a process that takes many hours to complete. Nothing is released from our warehouse until we’ve pressure tested, flexed, cooked, scrubbed, and washed every single fabric and component. It’s a process that takes many hours to complete. But our industry-leading rejection rates and customer returns are a testament to the huge amount of time, effort, and resource we put into product performance.’
Gill’s journey is a testament to Nick and the team’s unwavering commitment to innovation, performance, durability, and safety. From humble beginnings to worldwide acclaim, Gill has a hard-earned reputation as a pioneer in marine clothing, inspiring countless individuals to explore with the assurance of the highest quality equipment.