Henri Strzelecki, founder of the clothing brand Henri Lloyd, has died aged 87.
The Polish-born former soldier and keen sailor was “a visionary pioneer who sailed away peacefully,” on Boxing Day, the company website stated.
Four-time Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie tweeted he was “very sad” to hear of the death adding “Great man and much loved #RIP”.
The international lifestyle clothing brand, now also sported by America’s Cup yacht crews and around the world teams, was established in 1963 in Manchester.
He partnered Angus Lloyd to form Henri-Lloyd Limited.
Mr Strzelecki, or Henri as he was known to friends and colleagues alike, believed that sports clothing could be improved and worked to find ways to make it happen.
This was in the days when materials constructed from man-made fibres were in their infancy.
From the early days of working from a converted chapel in Manchester, the company now boasts a global reputation for pioneering new technologies.
These include the use of the wonder material of the 1960s Bri-Nylon, hand taping of seams for waterproof integrity and Velcro in clothing, which the firm was the first to use.
Sailors such as two-time Olympic champion Shirley Robertson, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes have all worked with the brand.
Mr Strzelecki, who was born in Brodnica, fled occupied Poland to join the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy.
It became part of the British Eighth Army. He fought in many campaigns, notably in the liberation of Bologna, earning medals from both the Polish and the British authorities.
He was demobilised in Britain and opted to stay as by then his native Poland was in the hands of the Communists.
He worked and studied in the textile industry.
Mr Strzelecki was awarded the MBE for services to the clothing industry in 1985.
In both 1986 and 1987 Henri- Lloyd Limited received the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement.
He was made Marine Personality of the Year by the Marine Trades Association in 1987.
The Gold Cross of Merit was awarded to him by the President of Poland in 1990.
A message on the company website states: “During his lifetime Mr Henri as he was known left a lasting impression with many people through his humanity, good humour and passion for life.”
His wife Sheila died in 1999. He is survived by his sons, Paul and Martin, who are the joint chief executives of Henri-Lloyd Limited, plus a daughter, Diane.
He also has eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.