Summer has arrived, so be prepared to be surrounded by women who look as elegant on the beach as if they’ve just stepped off the podium. But how about men? Don’t they deserve to look chic?
By looking at his disliking for the unstylish swimming trunks designed for men, Adam Brown had created Orlebar Brown, a brand which aims to create not a swimming short but “short you can swim in.” Brown is one of the few who praises summer, sea, sun and vacation as they deserve it. We hear about this radical brand from his founder.
You have switched from photography to fashion. This transition began with the creation of a very special concept. Could you tell the story of Orlebar Brown? With what needs, how is it born and where?
Although I took photographs, I would never say I was a photographer. In February 2005, I was invited to a friend’s 40th birthday in Rajasthan. The mixed group of friends were all like- minded in that they were design orientated and had their own personal styles. Around the pool at the hotel it all seemed a little different. The women looked great—but the men were wearing a mix of briefs, board or baggy boxer short styles. I remember we had to change to have lunch. This was the defining moment and the idea for Orlebar Brown became clear. I did not want a swim short but rather a short you can swim in. A tailored approach to swim shorts that enables you to go from the beach to having drinks or lunch.
We call them ‘a tailored approach’ because they are based on the traditional pattern of a man’s pair of trousers. 60 elements go into one pair of Orlebar Brown swim shorts. Many brands had swim, resort or holiday wear in their collections but none had it as the focus. It really seemed like a logical evolvement to take OB off the beach, out of the pool and into the resort. It was in 2010 that we launched our first tees, polos and shirts.
As to the reason why we take a tailored approach it really is just about fit. We believe a man of any shape looks better in a traditional suit that fits him properly; if it is too tight or too baggy it is not flattering. If you follow a traditional tailored approach and something fits you properly it will ultimately be more flattering.
I have also never understood why a man who would never normally wear trousers with an elasticated waistband suddenly chooses to wear shorts with them on the beach. No one has ever given me an answer.
I started the business with a college friend called Julia Simpson- Orlebar, so it is a combination of our surnames. We are still great friends but she has three children and the life of an entrepreneur was not for her.
How do you describe your brand?
A tailored approach to resort and holiday clothes. A celebration of sunshine, travel, happiness and good times.
You have created a brand that provides transitions from the beach to the street style. Where does your inspiration of designs come from?
I am one of those people where I genuinely believe inspiration is all around you and you never know when you are going to see, hear or feel something that will give you an idea.
If I had to choose one era that really defined Orlebar Brown then it would have to be the mid 1960s–70s pool and resort- type photographs. Slim Aarons—Hotel du Cap/Roc Pool image completely sums up OB. I love the whole natural water/sea juxtaposed with a beautiful man-made swimming pool. Craggy rocks, fabulous white modernist architecture, sunshine, big skies and people enjoying themselves—and the image on our best- selling photo-print short. Number one on any OB list.
Other things include Wham Club Tropicana video, Alain Delon in Purple Noon, Bruce Weber (American Vogue editorials), Mustique in the mid 1970s—the Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall years.
There is also a book called Weekend Utopia, Modern living in The Hamptons by Alastair Gordon. This amazing book just sums up the spirit of OB. The whole idea of a weekend utopia—what could be better?
What does fashion mean for you?
I love clothes—colour, construction, the fabric, detail and provenance all really matter. I am not at a period of my life when I am so driven by what is happening on the catwalks; I have my own evolved sense of how I want to dress. It constantly evolves but essentially remains around the same guides.
Whilst newness and change are refreshing and great there is something about many of the things I love that mean they have be relevant now but could have been worn five years ago and equally could be work in five years’ time. There is a sense of being timeless, classic and versatile whilst being new, fresh and exciting in some way.
How do you think you make a difference in the fashion industry?
I think we have created a new category within swim. Whilst there has always been a sport, surf and riviera corners to the swim market, we completed the story by bringing a fourth corner— something more tailored. Something essentially English in personality but ultimately international in spirit and which is understood all around the world.
I think our difference is that everything we do revolves around our OB Classic swim shorts. If they don’t work, or can’t be shown next to the swim shorts then it should not have a place at Orlebar Brown. By doing this we have created a new category with a fresh approach, revitalised the swim market in general and had a lot of fun on the way.
What is the next step for Orlebar Brown?
In recent months, we have started evolving our swim range. For the last 10 years, we have focused on our iconic OB Classic shorts and the Bulldog style in particular. We now have the more sporting Jack and Bulldog Adventure styles launching. At different price points and inspired with exactly the same DNA as everything else we do but with different personalities. They are both more ‘active’ in spirit but true to Orlebar Brown.
We have also just launched an OB Edition tote bag with TUMI which is amazing, there is the new version of our #SnapShorts app which enables customers to personalise their shorts faster and stories coming out with world-renowned DJ Sam Feldt and our great friends Tom and Jeremy Jauncey of Beautiful Destinations.