When we think of holiday, we think beach, tan, and good vibes. Holiday style is something that has become synonymous with Orlebar Brown. We sat down with the man behind the brand that has revolutionized swim shorts and made us “feel summer” all year long.
Mizzen, the latest retail division of Seddiqi Holding has officially launched the first stand-alone shop for British men’s tailored swim short brand, Orlebar Brown, in Dubai Mall earlier this week.
During the store’s opening, we sat down with the man himself, Adam Brown, and discussed year-long summers, the GCC market, beach style, and starting a business without a business background.
Here is our conversation:
Mojeh Men: Let me begin by congratulating on you on the opening of the Dubai store, we are excited to have you in town. Is this one of more openings to happen in the GCC and the Middle East?
Adam Brown: I hope so. I think that Dubai and the Middle East embody two of the words we live by at Orlebar Brown: “feel summer.”
Fundamentally, we’re about “feel summer” and essentially we’re all about sunshine, travelling, happiness, and good times. Where better embodies that than Dubai? There is something intrinsically right about Orlebar Brown’s presence in Dubai and around the Middle East. Dubai has always been one of the cities that we ship to a lot of our website’s orders to.
The Dubai Mall store is our first store, we’re currently looking at other opportunities, and I hope that there will more things coming up. I can tell you that we’re working on something with a hotel group, as well as discussing the possibility of another space here in Dubai.
MM: Orlebar Brown is well-known for creating special collections, like the James Bond swimming shorts and the Slogan Tee. Will you create anything special to commemorate the expansion into Dubai?
AB: The photographic print is a key part of our swim short collections, so we have edition shorts, which are very limited, that are relevant to Dubai. We currently have prints such as the Dubai skyline and a print of the view from The One & Only resort.
MM: Orlebar Brown is famous for the ‘Design Your Own Snapshorts’ service. Will that be available in store in Dubai?
AB: Our ‘snapshorts’ are a key element of our brand and aside from having the limited Dubai prints, customers can always design their own online and in store.
MM: Your most recent collaboration was with F1 champion Daniel Ricciardo. Are you planning on collaborating with local figures and celebrities?
AB: We’re not now, but I would love to. We should be. The intent is there.
MM: The brand is now not just a “shorts that you can swim in” brand, it grew to become a successful menswear company that is rapidly growing and expanding around the world. Can we expect to see growth in the brand’s collections and seasonal offerings?
AB: I do not think we even started doing what we originally set out to do; I do not believe we nearly began that journey. The original idea was that I wanted to make the best-tailored swim shorts in the world, and at the moment I do not think we reached half a per cent of the people we could potentially reach.
Even if we bring in t-shirts, polos, and the whole holiday lifestyle together, we need to understand what people do when they’re on holiday. People have different outfits from different collections for different occasions.
We’re thinking about what people do on holiday, where do they go, and how do they enjoy themselves in order to create collections that reflect all these different product categories.
All of which is aside from all the other things we could be doing, like beach clubs, travel magazines, and guides.
MM: You are originally a photographer, and when you first started Orlebar Brown you had no experience in business or fashion. Do you think that starting out with such a clean slate and a good idea was an advantage or a disadvantage?
AB: Well, in my world it was a complete advantage, purely because I did not come with any of the baggage. I am not a designer. I curate, rather than create. For me, the thing I wanted to bring alive was the experience or the gut feeling you get when you’re on a holiday.
The clothes were a way that you could bring that alive. When you put a pair of Orlebar Brown swim shorts in your suitcase, you feel like you’re going on holiday, you get that emotional excitement of travelling, and that’s what I wanted to bring alive, not be a fashion designer.
I love clothes, I love shopping, I am the ultimate consumer, but that’s not the reason why I started it and I think that being that ultimate consumer helped me not be that person.
MM: If you had a business background, would you have had different expectations from the brand and the company?
AB: When I started out, my expectation was that you did things one step at a time. I knew that I had to find a factory, I had to find a fabric supplier, and I had to find a way to sell my swim shorts. I just went on by addressing one challenge at a time. I didn’t come with a business plan or a strategy. Keep it simple, I believe.
MM: If you could go back in time to when you first started and do one thing differently, what would it be?
AB: I would’ve asked people questions. I think people are frightened to ask for help. I believe that there are a lot of generous people out there who are very happy to share contacts, experiences, and knowledge.
Very often, when you start a business, you do not feel confident enough to ask those questions. I think people should feel confident to ask others for whatever it is that they need.
MM: Do you consider that not asking questions, in the beginning, was some sort of a rookie mistake that you’ve done?
AB: I do not think it was a mistake. I just think that if I had asked those questions earlier, we would have progressed much faster.
Orlebar Brown, founded in 2007 by Adam Brown, specializes in tailored beachwear for men and offers a range of holiday and everyday clothing. The London-based fashion label has a number of international stores globally and will now be available to clients in the Middle East.
- Interview by Saif Haddad