Musto article from 1992
“This Autumn 10 one-design yachts will set forth from Southampton on The British Steel Challenge, a 28,000 miles around the world yacht race – going the wrong way against the Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties of the Southern Ocean. Aboard each of the 10 yachts will be 12 crew members, some 120 yachtsmen in all – all relying on MUSTO protective clothing at the personal recommendation and choice of Chay Blyth, the inspiration behind this unique event and undoubtedly Britain’s most experienced high latitude sailor.
The British Steel Challenge, 1992
But then the recommendation of MUSTO Ltd as the sole manufacturer/supplier of the ocean jackets and trousers – with built-in chest harness, facility to attach a life harness and reflective patches – should come as no surprise to anyone involved in sailing. In the past 21 years, protective clothing for yachtsmen has improved in every department of design, materials and assembly – and MUSTO has pioneered almost every one of them. Indeed. MUSTO clothing has been used in every Whitbread round-the-world race since 1981. The company simply has more round-the- world experience than probably any other manufacturer.
Founded in 1971 by Keith Musto, himself a Silver Medallist at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, the company set out from the beginning with the aim of being the first to supply a complete range of sailing clothing, from dinghies to round-the-world yachts – and from head to toe.
‘Most of the sailing clothing on the market at the time the company was founded was quite frankly not very good,’ explained Keith MUSTO, ‘and did not provide adequate protection from water or cold temperatures. Manufacturers of such clothing were generally those producing clothing of one kind or another, but did not seem to know too much about the tremendous range of demands that sailingwear had to face. We thought we could do better, even if we had to learn about clothing manufacture’.
This challenge, after much research, development and experimentation, finally resulted, in the late 1970s. in the first ‘three layer system’ of protective clothing for yachtsmen. These three layers work together to separate the wearer from moisture generated by the body inside the clothing, as well as from water produced by nature on the outside.
Overall, the three layer system gives more comfort, more protection, and greater freedom of movement. with fewer garments and less weight. Non-absorbent Meraklon fleece provides the body warmth and keeps moisture (whether body-generated or condensation-induced) away from the skin. Neoprene is used to provide the waterproof outer clothing. However, as soon as you pierce Neoprene with a needle it has the potential to let in water. This led MUSTO to design sailing clothing in which no seams are exposed in key areas. Essentially, MUSTO clothing is designed more in an engineering sense than the normal clothing point of view.
‘Our materials are not just waterproof and strong, but soft and delightful to wear. They have been designed to do a job of work. to do it better than anything else on the market, and to go on doing it for a very long time, ’ commented Keith. The success of MUSTO designs were quickly recognised by everyone from the club sailor, to Olympic competitors, right up to Whitbread round-the-world race winners. The Royal National Lifeboat institution also appointed MUSTO to supply its offshore crews with clothing.
Such was the rigorous testing demanded by the RNLI that crew clothing was subjected to wind tunnel testing, combined with water pumps and spray nozzles. And if that wasn’t enough, occupants had to undertake step tests in those conditions. At the end of each test the amount of water ingress on each person was measured.
Certainly there can be few clothing manufacturers whose garments have been through such demanding testing. For MUSTO, however, the results were such that they could justifiably claim to provide ‘the best protection in the world’.
More recently, the 1991 Admiral’s Cup race was won by France, with all crew members aboard the three-yacht team protected by MUSTO foul weather clothing, while Grant Dalton, skipper of Fisher & Paykel in the Whitbread round-the-world race, writes, ‘Our comprehensive MUSTO three-layer systems proved to be without peer and we were able to withstand the snow, sleet. hail, rain and intense cold ensured in the Southern Ocean in relative comfort’.
But it’s not only in the demanding side of sailing that MUSTO has come to the fore. There is now a MUSTO Snugs aprés-sail leisurewear range, which is also proving very popular. These are available in bright colours and as mix-and-match across the ranges and can be teamed with anything from jeans to MUSTO’s yachting pants. There is even a range of Snuglets for the kids.
MUSTO’s three layer system
The enthusiasm of the Musto family’s interest in horse riding has also lead them into the establishment of a country range of clothing. Like the sailing range. the design and scope of the country programme is wide, incorporating clothing for riding, shooting and fishing. The experience gained from protecting people afloat is now used in conjunction with the special needs of the country to offer the very best in performance clothing.
The quality of the products in design and materials is more than proven by the many congratulations that are received from users in all walks of life. A recent satisfied customer was Luciano Pavarotti, for whom a special-size riding jacket was made.
The sports leisure market has always interested MUSTO, so it was not surprising for the company to move in this direction. As always thorough research has paid off, such as with the MUSTO Snug range of jackets and shirts which have virtually become a cult item. Not only in the UK but also in mainland Europe. This range is expanding quickly into trousers and other products.
Current season equestrian collection
Rapid growth rate
Now operating in three divisions – sailing. country and leisure – MUSTO has developed a complementary range of clothing products which has enabled a growth rate ol’ some 40% to be achieved in the past year and an anticipated turnover of around 126.5 million in the current year.
Sailing clothing reaches peak sales through the summer months; countrywear has peak sales through the Winter months; while the leisure programme is year-round. The result, MUSTO is currently working flat out and has not been affected at all by the UK or worldwide recession. Everything from initial design to final selling is undertaken in-house by MUSTO, from two manufacturing sites in Benfleet, Essex, and the Midlands. Production technology is primarily based around Brother and Eastman sewing technology (of which MUSTO has some 70 machines). Around 45% of all the sailing clothing is currently exported, with Germany as the most significant market. MUSTO also has licensees in Australia and New Zealand and its own sales company in the USA. In the UK, sailingwear is sold through some 400 chandlers. Even more UK outlets handle the country and leisurewear products.
Design-wise, MUSTO is becoming increasingly interested in some of the latest computerised design technology. Indeed. Keith Musto and some of his senior personnel were at the recent Clo-Tech ’92 exhibition to assess some of the latest developments. As Keith himself commented, ‘The more the leisure side of our business grows, the more potential there is for design’.
Overall, there is one important aspect to MUSTO: the latest Ideas do not cause the company to forget the other products within the programmes. Nor does it forget about the valuable team of people that go to make up the company.
Diversification of ranges has undoubtedly created strong home and export markets to place MUSTO squarely among today’s leading specialist sportswear companies. A position which Keith Musto aims to retain.”
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