The Crewroom brand was born in Putney, London, with its HQ based on Putney embankment at the very heart of London’s rowing community – a stone’s throw from the start line for the annual Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race.
Crewroom's founder, and former elite rower - Kate Giles - spent near to 10 years in a performance training programme, competing at a high level in her sport, before finally hanging up her blades in 2000. However, Kate never retired her love of rowing, the outdoors and keeping fit and went on to create the Crewroom brand. She tells her story here...
Aged 18 I arrived at university. After years of trying various sports I decided to make the most of living by the Thames and started rowing.
Initially I wasn’t great, but I soon joined Thames Rowing Club where I had the great fortune to train with some of the best rowers in the country. Not long after, I started winning races and went on to win a medal at Nationals that year.
Rowing was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. The training was relentless and regardless of high winds, snow, torrential rain or sweltering heat, we were training twice a day, every day – on the water, running along the tideway, on the ergo and lifting Olympic weights. Then, at weekends, we’d lay down around 100 km on the water.
I loved the sport. It was an obsession and every training session I focused on how I could get better, how I could make the boat to go faster. Rowing taught me how to focus on every single detail but, most of all, it taught me that with hard work and absolute determination you can achieve great things.
In 2001 I decided to set up a juice bar and kit shop. No one else was doing it and I really wanted a place where all of the rowers could hang out after training. It soon became a regular haunt for many top athletes – on Boat Race day the crews would come in and clean me out of waffles!
Quite quickly it became apparent that there wasn’t enough good kit for rowers. Nothing I found in the general market could cut the muster for extreme training. So, first off, I sketched a jacket, named it the very imaginative ‘Rower’ and worked with Rab in Sheffield to get it made.
One Saturday morning not long after, Julie Aitken from GB Rowing came into the juice bar and asked if I could make a batch for the squad. Well, we’ve never looked back and working with the likes of GB Rowing has really pushed us to be innovative and the best that we can be. This initial order led to us launching our first jacket to market and developing our first range of performance fabrics.
Crewroom became my passion, but after giving up rowing I became unfit! Juggling the demands of running a growing business meant that free time was limited, so I took up running - I could get my fix of the outdoors and get my fitness back on track. The only problem was, I couldn’t find any kit I liked. Leggings didn’t have the stretch I wanted and the fabrics were itchy, just like the fabrics used in the early days of rowing kit. So, my next focus was to research our own fabrics which would deliver comfort, great fit and consistent quality, creating training kit that we all wanted to wear.
Today, our company is founded on passion, determination and innovation. It’s derived from our heritage in rowing and it's at the heart of everything we do – in our attention to detail, our considered approach to product design and fabrics, and our genuine love of the outdoors. It’s what sparked the idea behind the brand and it’s what drives us forward – like every great athlete – to work hard and to be the best at what we do.