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A Conversation With Orlebar Brown Designer Adam Brown

Posted: 07/11/2011 12:19 pm

Never has there been so much buzz about a pair of swim shorts since Orlebar Brown came on the market. Now on its fourth year, the tailored swim shorts in bright, punchy colors, which can be worn outside the pool or away from the beach, have achieved a phenomenal following among the Sartorialist set and the guys who like their Rag & Bone and Simon Spurr.

The creator of this summer's must-have swim shorts, Adam Brown, opens up about how he came up with this simple but brilliant idea, why Speedo style trunks get such a bad rap, and of course, his summer plans.

How did you come up with the idea of filling this niche?
I was a portrait photographer and had the idea for Orlebar Brown -- or in particular, a more 'tailored' approach to swim shorts -- during a holiday in 2005. Looking around the pool with (maybe too critical an eye) I thought the women in the group all looked great -- but the men looked pretty dreadful.

Although it was quite a design/visually led bunch of people, the men were all in either budgie smuggler type briefs, baggy patterned boxer short styles or shapeless board shorts. I felt there had to be something better for the guys to choose from. Orlebar Brown originally launched as the more tailored approach to swim shorts in February 2007, with just four styles in five colors.

And it's been quite the success story...
I think we have delivered something to our male audience that feels like a classic -- it's all about true quality and understated style. We have approached swimwear from a different angle. We've brought tailoring to the beach. We are 'shorts you can swim in.'

This dual role is something unique to Orlebar Brown -- a lot of brands are now producing very similar products with almost identical messages. We are the original and I think still doing it best.

Who would you like to see wearing your designs?
We have never courted celebrity placement but if we were to, I think three people that would be on my wish list would be Lapo Elkann, Tinie Tempah and Hugh Jackman. I love a bit of old world euro glamour mixed with a bit of London chic with a splash of Hollywood.

In a world of tailored swim shorts, is there room for Speedo style suits?
I think Speedos are great. They are a complete classic. Not only are they the only real 'sports' option, if you look at the pictures of the men in the 1970s when Speedos really became fashionable, they have a real sense of time about them.

For me the image of the 'brief' type trunks became slightly corrupted during the 1980's, when they became a bit clichéd with the people who were photographed wearing them, the shapes all became too exaggerated and the colors too bright. Speedo style trunks are fantastically unforgiving in so many different ways. We're working on the perfect alternative -- watch this space.

What are your swimsuit pet peeves?


Shapeless, ill-fitting, baggy, cheap fabrics, garish prints -- and when people have not considered what sort of swim shorts work for their body shape, height, skin tone.

Where will you be sporting your Orlebar Browns this summer?
Third week of July is the best week to be in St. Tropez. We go for a party there every year at this time and stay at the Byblos and blow the budget. The people watching is better than anything you could ever wish for -- beautiful people with beautiful children in beautiful clothes -- it's total gorging heaven.

In August we will be in North Cornwall with friends, as I have been doing every year since I was six years old. We walk in the morning for a few hours and surf in the late afternoon come rain or shine and then collapse with pasties and wine in the evening. It is true and total recharging and I look forward to it all year long -- and so do the dogs!

 

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