Brand Profile: Orlebar Brown

Shorts You Can Swim In

London-based Orlebar Brown was started in March 2007 after founder Adam Brown was inspired while on holiday when he realized what he wanted to wear ‘a tailored short you would swim in’ didn’t exist. He wanted to create something for the beach and pool but is also smart enough to wear to lunch or a drink.

Now a global business that has steered the zeitgeist towards tailored swimwear, Orlebar Brown has branched out into a full line of resort wear, with pieces perfect for a Hamptons getaway. Adam spoke with HM about his memory of the first time the idea to start the brand struck him, gives some style advice, and picks out a few items you should be packing for the weekend.

How did you first get into men’s swimwear fashion? Was there a void in the market that you knew how to fill, and that’s what led you to create Orlebar Brown?

Various sort of things. I was at a point in my life when I was definitely looking for something. I was in a career that I wasn’t going anywhere, so I was definitely on the lookout for something new to do. I hadn’t worked in retail or fashion before, but a particular event happened on holiday that just made me think about a tailored swim short. I got turned away from a restaurant for lunch and I thought, “I don’t want a swim short, I want a short I can swim in.”

I just started playing around with this idea. I had a very clear idea of the product that I wanted a traditional short with the side fasteners. Something more tailored, more structured, cleaner in approach. I did a three-day start your own fashion business course and a one-week drawing course and then really just started it from my spare room.

What’s a few style rules you suggest following when looking to make a purchase?

Never too tight, never too loose. Always look at fit. If something fits you, it’s ultimately more flattering. That would be my first thing.

I would say, think about color. Think about your skin tone. Color is a way of celebrating your skin tone, whether that’s very pale or very dark, but also color is a reflection of personality. If you’re really shy and conservative or shy and retiring, then perhaps don’t wear really bright pinks and bright yellows. Whereas, if you are more vivacious, if you are more extrovert, then I’d really celebrate that. I’d wear color.

If you’re wearing swim shorts, I would be thinking about length. If you’re six foot five, I wouldn’t be wearing anything too short. If you’re four foot five, I wouldn’t be wearing anything too long, because it just accentuates lack of height. It’s all about proportion. So however tall you are or short, think about proportion of the length of your shorts. So overly baggy, overly long, isn’t doing you any favors if you’re not very tall. Likewise, if you’re very tall and you’re wearing micro tight shorts, it’s also not doing any favors.

Which print or pattern or color do you think best expresses your personality?

Oh, I’m navy blue, without a doubt. I’m navy blue.

Snapshorts allows shoppers to turn their favorite photograph, drawing or graphic into a pair of personalized swim shirts. What was the inspiration behind that?

Well, we started off doing the Slim Aarons photographs onto the shorts. It’s always been a key way for us to do storytelling. Slim Aarons said his photography was about fabulous people doing wonderful things in beautiful places. I think the swim shorts have always acted as a canvas for us to celebrate that.

When we used the Slim Aarons photographs on the photo prints, the next day, we very quickly started having requests from customers wanting to put their own memories. Whether that is a party, whether it’s a particular holiday, whether it’s a place they’ve visited, whether it’s a moment with friends, family, children, whatever it is, to put that onto swim shorts. It started off being a canvas for our storytelling, and it’s now evolved into being a canvas for our customers to do their storytelling.

What do you see as some of the goals for the future of Orlebar Brown?

We haven’t started doing categories like accessories, bags, luggage, suitcases. Anything that’s to do with holidays, we should be doing it. We give a five year guarantee on all of our swim shorts, so why would the customer not trust us to provide skincare, suncare to protect their skin? All these other product categories, all to do with holidays and celebrating summer, are really key things that Orlebar Brown could be doing. On a territory level, we are very Europe and US focused. We haven’t started South America. We haven’t started the Far East. We’ve only just started in the Middle East. There’s way more that we haven’t even begun yet.

Lastly, if you were packing for a weekend in The Hamptons, what are some of the must have things you are throwing in your bag from Orlebar Brown?

That would be a terry polo shirt, a terry toweling polo shirt. A photo print pair of swim shorts. A pair of cotton twill Bulldog shorts, day shorts. I would be wearing a Ridley denim… We’ve got a linen shirt called the Ridley. It’s an over-the-head, baggier linen shirt, which is fantastically cool, it’s chic I wear it the whole time.
Then from the Bond collection, I would be taking the Man with the Golden Gun green military jacket, which is great for traveling. You can dress it up, dress it down, dress it whichever you want. And masses of those indigo t-shirts.