Orlebar Brown: Aspirational Swimwear
“In 2005 I went on holiday to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday in Rajasthan. There were 30 people in the group aged between 25 – 50 years old. Most of them worked in design, took an interest in clothing – but were not obsessed by fashion. Around the pool, the women in the group looked great, but the men did not. All were wearing brightly patterned, baggy boxer short styles, briefs or board shorts. The idea for Orlebar Brown became clear when from sitting by the pool, we had to change to have lunch in the bar.”
That was Orlebar Brown founder Adam Brown who said that. A photographer by trade, his keen eye for beauty can be felt in all of Orlebar Brown’s campaigns. He has drawn inspiration from the photographs of Slim Aarons – a photographer known for his ultra-glamorous depictions of the aristocracy, stars, and generally beautiful (and rich) people of the 1960s and 1970s – and has channelled the essence of these vintage-style photographs into the distinctive Orlebar Brown aesthetic.
It was the discrepancy between these two worlds – a world that Brown felt had been lost somewhere in the 1970s, a world that was aspirational and effortlessly cool – that birthed Orlebar Brown in a bid to create a luxury brand specifically tailored to those in pursuit of the good life, a brand that just through wearing their clothes brings you closer to the Italian Riviera, Palm Beach and the lifestyle that surrounds these places. They started producing swim shorts that took inspiration from tailored trousers and swim shorts of yesteryear with details not seen today such as side adjusters, a working fly, and button closure, and proper pockets just like on a tailored trouser. Serving to buck the trend of increasingly casual dress at the beach and around the pool that didn’t sit right with Mr Brown on his holiday and instead give men a chance to stand out in a subtle and sophisticated way while holidaying.
As early as the 1950s but especially in the 60s and 70s for the first time, air travel was becoming commonplace and increased leisure time meant more and more people were getting away to exotic locations to enjoy their holidays. Magazines like Esquire were filled with aspirational illustrations depicting men in an array of exotic locations and with this new environment came a new way of dressing. ‘Resort wear’ as it was often called was clothing answering the needs of holiday-goers enjoying warmer climates. This included swimming shorts, lightweight clothing such as camp collar and Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and breathable footwear. The looks were formal by today’s standards but at the time were the most relaxed clothing around and it was this balance between comfort but still keeping things tailored and flattering and it was this look that in many ways inspired Orlebar Brown.
Today a whole range has been built around the original swim shorts. Often vintage-inspired, made with premium fabrics, and focusing a forgotten world of luxury ‘resort wear’.
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