Bill Byrne and Claire Kent, the husband-and-wife team who set up Iffley Road in 2013, were both keen runners as children and met through the sport. They felt there wasn’t much kit on the market which appealed to them and wanted to produce a range of stylish, technical clothes that were for runners but also for a wider active lifestyle, as they say, ‘for running, fitness and living’.
The pair has always loved minimalist designs and the pared-back athletics apparel from the 1950s. This look was one they wished to combine with the latest performance fabrics and technical innovations. Examples include their simple laser-cut eyelets under the arms of their jackets for added ventilation, light but extremely waterproof and breathable outerwear (the waterproofing specifications of their flagship Marlow jacket are double those required for keeping ultra-marathon runners safe and protected in bad conditions) and the secure but discreet zipped pockets in their tops and shorts.
The company is called Iffley Road after the famous track of that name in Oxford where Roger Bannister ran the first sub four-minute mile in 1954. The feat was the inspiration for Bill and Claire and continues to be so. They favour retro detailing such as a small tri-stripe ribbon on all their kit. This is a tribute to the Amateur Athletics Association – Bannister wore the AAA logo at the time of his world-famous run. The Iffley Road roundel is deliberately reminiscent of running club badges of the period.
The couple’s philosophy is simple: that running should be free, uncomplicated and beautiful but that it is also about friendship and camaraderie. They love the fact Bannister was paced to perfection by his training companions and that he wasn’t an obsessive runner and went climbing and hiking just weeks before his successful run. The brand ethos is that sport is a critical part of a balanced lifestyle and this is reflected in the practical and versatile nature of Iffley Road kit.
Britishness is at the root of Iffley Road and drives the couple’s design decisions, their product range, choice of fabrics, photography, models and tone. The brand reflects their own joy at running in the British countryside. The muted colour palette is drawn from their favourite routes – through parkland, forests, rivers and mountains.
This year, to minimise their carbon footprint, they are sourcing an even greater proportion of their kit from Britain. They have extended their merino base layer to include a short sleeve top (Exmoor) and a roll neck (Bodmin). The whole range is made in their Leicestershire factory using fine gauge Italian yarns.
When Iffley Road started it was purely a running brand but over the years the kit has been adapted for a broader appeal. Iffley Road now offers kit for the gym, yoga and travel. A new website launched in November 2018 with a journal, podcast series and stories from brand ambassadors.
The founders whole-heartedly believe that running improves people’s lives in every way – mainly of course, physically and spiritually but now, with the advent of their company, sartorially too.