British beachwear brand Orlebar Brown is celebrating its tenth anniversary with the launch of a brand new sport swim short called The Jack. Founder Adam Brown reflects on ten years of redefining resort wear, including Orlebar Brown's recent collaboration with fitness label Bodyism
The ongoing obsession with healthy living has given rise to the prominence of 'athleisure' on runways, as fashion designers continue to embrace the idea of multi-functional clothing within their collections. Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: “Casual, comfortable clothing designed to be suitable both for exercise and everyday wear”, athleisure remains at the forefront of catwalks and the high street for the S/S17 season.
But the concept of fusing fashion and leisure certainly isn’t a new one, and one of the first to tap into the trend was swimwear designer Adam Brown, whose beachwear brand Orlebar Brown celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with the launch of a brand new swim short; the Jack. Stumbling into fashion purely by accident, the former photographer came up with the concept of designing shorts that can be worn both on and off the beach while on holiday with a group of friends. “We tried to go for lunch after a swim but I was told by the restaurant that I couldn’t go in wearing my swimming trunks,” he explains. “It just got me thinking, ‘actually, I don’t want a swim short, I want a short I can swim in’.”
This experience set the ball rolling for Orlebar Brown, the now go-to sartorial solution for sunseekers. “I had no idea where it was going to go,” he tells me, when I mention how far the brand has come in its 10 years of existence. “I hadn’t worked in fashion or retail, or any form of product design beforehand. I had no idea how it was going to evolve and I didn’t have a fabulous business plan I was waiting to implement. I just thought, ‘I’ve got to start selling and try and bring this to life’.”
Fast forward ten years and enter the Jack. Orlebar Brown's latest swimwear launch is a design based on the OB Classic shorts but made from ultra-lightweight nylon (weighing just 70 grams) and with a sportier approach. Following in the footsteps of its sister swim shorts – the Springer, Setter, Bulldog and Dane – the Jack takes its name from the energetic dog that is the Jack Russell Terrier. Engineered for activity, the Jack has a 13% stretch in the fabric and a part-elasticated waistband for increased movement –perfect for running to the beach and cooling off in the sea without having to change – though don’t let the words ‘elasticated waist’ deter you. As one has come to expect from Orlebar Brown, the Jack is beautifully tailored; a contemporary cut with classic detailing and quick-dry fabric to boot.
‘The Jack is something we’re really excited about. Over the last 10 years we have really focused on building the DNA of our OB Classic shorts and now seems like perfect time to introduce a new member of the family,” says Brown, “The opportunities are endless but sourcing the right fabric was key. The lightness and flexibility of these shorts make them perfect for the gym and sports as well as a dip in the pool.’
Over the past decade, Orlebar Brown's range of luxury resort wear has gained international attention from A-listers and everyday men alike since launching in 2007. The likes of Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds are said to be fans and it even made national headlines last year after former Prime Minister David Cameron was snapped wearing the label’s signature Bulldog Roc Pool shorts on holiday. But to see Orlebar Brown’s popularity in full force, you need only log on to Instagram, where thousands of men across the globe show off their shorts by using the popular #OBsaroundtheworld tag.
“Swimwear used to be considered an add-on rather than the focus, but now it has become a category in itself, which I think we’ve helped to create”
“Swimwear used to be considered an add-on rather than the focus, but now it has become a category in itself, which I think we’ve helped to create,” Brown says of the brand’s success. “Men aren’t afraid to dress for the beach any more. It’s that idea of being camera-ready, coming back full circle to how it was back in the 1950s and 1960s, when people actually used to dress up for their holiday rather than it being reduced to an off-duty approach.”
A favourite not only with consumers but also other brands, Orlebar Brown has been targeted by fashion designers seeking to collaborate on their own swimwear lines, including Italian brand Emilio Pucci, which approached the label back in 2015. “A friend of the brand sent us two metres of vintage Pucci fabric asking to have some shorts made, so we made them. It just so happened that [the brand’s image director] Laudomia Pucci went on holiday with this person about a year later. She saw them and loved them, and that’s how that collaboration happened,” recalls Brown.
The latest in a long line of collaborators is Notting Hill-based Bodyism, which has partnered with Orlebar Brown on a 12-piece capsule collection of fitness clothing. Similarly launched 10 years ago by personal trainer James Duigan, Bodyism has grown into a global lifestyle and wellbeing centre where the likes of David Beckham and Pippa Middleton work out. “James approached us, asking for help with some clothes for the Bodyism café and staff, and the collection evolved from there,” explains Brown.
As both brands have outlets on Westbourne Grove and share a similar clientele, you might expect a little competition between the two, but in fact, Duigan tells me, it is quite the opposite. “We love Orlebar Brown because they are innovators who changed the entire space they work in, and have managed to stay relevant by staying true to their ethos of style and substance. Adam is one of my best friends and we are so excited by our first men’s collaboration.”
Comprising a selection of hoodies, sweats and shorts designed for use both in and out of the gym, the range is a true embodiment of everything both brands represent.“James has been a customer of ours for many years. I love what he’s done with Bodyism and the whole ‘clean and lean’ lifestyle. We spoke about how people work out at the gym, but then want to sit and have coffee at the café and go about their day; the collection is an evolution of the whole multi-purpose clothing trend.
“Instead of a short you can swim in, it’s clothes you can work out in,” Brown continues. “Usually, our collaborations are with artists or illustrators, people who can reinterpret our key products – but with James it’s simply a lifestyle project. I think people are going to love it.” So do we.