Admired for its more tailored approach to conventional swimwear, London-based menswear brand Orlebar Brown is the perfect fit for the UAE’s luxe seaside lifestyle. Founder Adam Brown tells us how his concept revolutionised the fashion world
In a decade where baggy shorts were all the rage, Orlebar Brown founder, Adam Brown, championed the concept of taking tailored shorts into uncharted waters, quite literally. The idea came to Brown when he was holidaying in Rajasthan in 2005. After spending the morning by the pool, he decided to go to lunch at the hotel’s restaurant but was turned away at the door and asked to return only after changing out of his swim shorts. And that’s where the idea of “tailored shorts you can swim in” was born.
Although he hadn’t worked a single day in fashion or retail, Brown was determined to launch his start-up. After getting the basics in place by enrolling in business courses and researching fabrics, he launched Orlebar Brown in 2007 on a digital platform. With a spare room in his home serving as the brand’s premier headquarters, he successfully completed his first order of 1,000 pairs of shorts. And it wasn’t too long before his swim shorts caught the world’s attention for its unique tailoring found mostly in a pair of suit trousers. The rest, as they say, is history.
After 13 years in business, how has the brand evolved?
“We launched in 2007 as a tailored swim shorts brand. Today, the story remains the same, with sunshine, travel, happiness and good times as the key theme. Essentially, we are a lifestyle brand but our hero product has evolved into many different categories and collections. We have been on a journey over the last decade and our range has tremendously grown.”
What challenges did you face when you established the brand?
“Before Orlebar Brown came along, I had never started a business or worked in fashion. But the fact that I didn’t know about these things was both a plus and a minus. Weirdly, naivety is a good thing because you just get on with it and try your best. For example, I spent a lot of time building the website, learning how to drive traffic and encouraging people to check out, which all took a lot of practice. Like any start-up business, we experienced the usual challenges, but if you stick with your values, eventually things fall into place.”
And what would you say determined the brand’s success?
“Orlebar Brown works because it has a unique proposition. Character matters. Just promoting Orlebar Brown as a collection of clothes was never going to work. It was important to highlight the brand as one with values and purpose. We achieved this by listening to feedback from our customers, striving for quality and realising the need to be surrounded by a great team. All these factors have contributed to why we are still here.”
What have been your biggest milestones on this journey?
“Starting with a blank sheet of paper and seeing it evolve and come to life with its own DNA and personality has been the best part. I also love it when people share their
#OBsAroundTheWorld on social media. It’s great that our brand has become such a special part of people’s memories. It’s not only a product that people buy, but also a product that they emotionally engage with.”
Tell us more about the #SnapShorts campaign and the inspiration behind it.
“As soon as we put pictures by American photographer Slim Aarons on our line of Bulldog Classic shorts, it was clear that we were onto a winner. The images were meant to tell a story. Within no time since its launch, we started getting requests from customers asking for their own images to be featured on the shorts. #SnapShorts was our answer. The campaign allowed customers to turn their favourite photograph, drawing or graphic into a personalised pair of swim shorts, transforming moments and memories into made-to-order shorts. It became a personal way for everyone to tell their own story with a truly unique product.”
You have grown to three stores in Dubai, are you looking to expand further?
“We are very happy with how the stores have performed in Dubai. We currently have a few scenic Dubai snapshots printed on our swim shorts, featuring the iconic JBR, Dubai Marina skyline, the gorgeous palm trees and pool of Mandarin Oriental Jumeira Dubai and a print of the stunning resort grounds of One & Only Royal Mirage. Still, there is a lot more we are hoping to do here. We have just launched a Dubai version of our website and are excited about that. Dubai is synonymous with holidays and there are so many great hotels and resorts we could be working with, even in Abu Dhabi.”
Discover the brand at The Dubai Mall 04 3305005