Strong Island

Charlotte Pearson finds out how an anchor helped to launch a clothing brand.

A brand’s logo is a very powerful thing. There are a number out there that once you see it you instantly know who or what it is for.

Tristan and Paul

Tristan and Paul

For Paul Gonella and Tristan Savage, of Strong Island, when they changed the logo on their website it sparked an interest which led to a clothing line.
“The Strong Island website showcases, promotes and informs people about all the different things going on in Portsmouth,” explains Paul. “We changed the logo to an anchor and people started asking for it on a t-shirt.”
The first t-shirts, a black and white colour combination tee, came with a drawstring bag and stickers and had two runs – both selling out in a matter of days.
This led to Strong Island Clothing Co being born in the summer of 2012, and as the range started to expand Tristan and Paul knew the next step was to find a shop.
“The shop has grown really naturally,” reveals Paul. “We thought about going into Albert Road, but we couldn’t find a space in the size we wanted.
“Where we are now means we can showcase other makers and creators through selling what they do and exhibiting artists’ work.”
Each exhibition lasts between four to six weeks and the pair try and showcase people from the city or from just outside.
7B6A0838The art on display has ranged from pieces by graphic artists, illustrations, street art, photography and fine art.
The latest artist Strong Island is collaborating with is Dan McCabe, who has created ‘Portsmouth Twitching’, a striking print of birds you can see around Portsmouth, with money from sales going to the RSPB.
“I have gone out and looked at the birds that live and breed at Langstone Harbour, making videos for the RSPB,” explains Paul. “It piqued my interest in the birds, so we knew we wanted to do something for them.”
All this is housed in the shop in Highland Road, which opened its doors in 2014.
7B6A9346Every season Strong Island Clothing Co releases a big seasonal drop and then other smaller ones throughout the year. The current collections feature t-shirts for men, women and children, hoodies and waterproof jackets, with the designs created by Tristan.
“We have never taken anything for granted and we design the stuff we would like to wear and what we love,” reveals Paul. “And it seems to have worked.”
Aside from clothes, the shop sells chocolate by Choc & Truffle – featuring anchors and bikes – and Southsea Bathing Hut products.
“The only stipulation we have is that whatever we showcase or sell has to fit in with the rest of the shop,” explains Paul.
“We love working with local artists, makers and sellers as we love showcasing what people in Portsmouth and Southsea are doing.”
IMG_8213 (1)One key aim for the pair is that the products they sell are high quality, however, this saw a search for an enamel mug take four years.
“Many of the suppliers we went to just did one colour and transferred an image on there, but we wanted to have a range of colours and designs,” he recalls.
“It was one of the first things we wanted to do and it has taken until now to get it right.
“We had the same thing with our sunglasses – that has taken about two years as we knew exactly what we want.”
What comes across immediately about Paul and Tristan is there love for Portsmouth.
“We are incredibly proud of where we live and the 100 years worth of heritage of the Navy and being on the coast,” enthuses Paul. “We wanted to illustrate those links on our clothing and products.”
The bike range was born out of their passion for cycling and includes bike tops emblazoned with the anchor motif and a bike wheel with the phrase ‘strong in the leg, strong in the head’, as well as a cycling jersey.
7B6A8766“The technical jerseys started as we used to do a Strong Island bike ride,” reveals Paul. “These products have grown as we both love cycling so the city cycling tops are great for just going along the seafront.”
A stone’s throw from the beach, Strong Island’s store is the perfect place to head where you can enjoy some retail therapy and then take a stroll next to the Solent.

Strong Island is based in Highland Road, Southsea. It is closed Sunday and Monday and is open 10am until 6pm Tuesday to Saturday. For more information, visit

The Portsmouth Twitching limited edition print is now available from Strong Island Clothing Co store, in both A3 and A2 sizes. The A3 print is £25 and the A2 print is £45, all expertly printed on beautiful paper and both include donations to the RSPB.

Strong Island is based in Highland Road, Southsea.
It is closed Sunday and Monday and is open 10am until 6pm Tuesday to Saturday.
For more information, visit


admin September 2, 2016 Fashion and Beauty