Frescobol Carioca’s signature beach bat and ball have swung the brand into the upper echelons of luxury lifestyle, and now it’s opening its third – and largest – store in Notting Hill
If there’s one country that tips England to the post when it comes to dedicated football fans, it’s Brazil. From the slums to the sparkling gated communities of the super rich, everyone will own a football – even if they have to use their jumpers as goal posts to play the game.
But when the locals of Rio de Janeiro aren’t practicing their best Neymar impersonation, they’re partaking in a sport of a less competitive nature. Frescobol is Rio’s answer to ping pong but, unlike its counterpart, the aim of the game is to work together to keep the ball elevated, rather than to catch your opponent out.
For the founders of British lifestyle brand Frescobol Carioca, this simple sport sums up the Rio de Janeiro that they came to know and love as teenagers. Max Leese and Harry Brantly met at school aged 13 and spent many a summer practicing the game on Ipanema beach, near to where Brantly was born and where much of his family still resides. It was a gaggle of sunseekers in the west coast of France that sparked the idea of bringing frescobol to the masses; while on holiday, the pair spent an afternoon introducing the French locals to the game and, inadvertently, to the city.
“People kept coming up to us and saying how beautiful [the bats] were and asking where we had got them from,” Leese recalls. “We told them a little bit about the bats and the game, but actually what we started talking to people about was Rio and the lifestyle. That was the lightbulb moment for us.”
The result is Frescobol Carioca, a luxury lifestyle label that specialises in beachwear and accessories inspired by Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. The name derives from a combination of the game and the colloquial term used to describe Rio natives, whom Leese and Brantly have come to know and love.
“People in Rio are very friendly,” he says. “On the beaches in Rio, you’ll have millionaires sitting right next to guys who come down from the favela [shanty town] next door; it’s that coming together of everyone that creates this really cool vibe.”
It’s this vibe that the brand has brought to Notting Hill, where it has opened its third, and largest, store in London. Located just off Ledbury Road, the space transports you to Brazil with reference after reference to Rio; one wall boasts a rainbow display of frescobol bats, while another features a floor-to-ceiling photograph of the city itself.
The rest of the walls are lined with the label’s swim and resort wear collections, from linen shirts in varying shades of blue to trunks in geometric prints. The latter is where the brand excels; having perfected the style, cut and shape of the shorts, the design team has gone to town on patterns that take inspiration from –you guessed it – Rio. The signature prints mimic the unique patterns on the city’s pavements, while the most recent collection champions the Jardim Botânico.
“Where we really add value is in our prints,” Leese says. “There are so many things that we’re looking at [for future collections]; whether it’s the samba movement, the amazing shapes that are created from all the deckchairs on a busy day at the beach – even the cityscape itself creates an incredible pattern. The inspiration is everything.”
When not building new boutiques in London, the team spends three weeks a year on location in Rio, shooting the campaign imagery and discovering new haunts. Having spent so much time in the Brazilian city, it’s safe to assume that Leese is somewhat of an expert – so, what makes it so great?
“For me, it’s just the vibe and the mood; Rio’s such an exciting city, because you have the beaches and clear blue water, the cityscape with this incredible skyline, and then on top of that you have the jungle encroaching on the city,” he says, passionately. “It’s a place that people aspire to, which is exciting for us."