“Attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.” That was the mantra of photographer Slim Aarons, but if you add just one more element—attractive outfits—well, then you’ve got the world of Orlebar Brown.
This British label has just celebrated its fifth anniversary, and it’s commemorating the milestone with a collection of five limited-edition, XO Exclusively Ours suits. Each suit features an iconic Getty photograph that conveys the Orlebar Brown lifestyle, and three of them, not surprisingly, are by Slim Aarons, who was, of course, the original documenter of the good life.
“Slim Aarons was one of the first photographers who actually chronicled a certain person’s way of living: when they’re on holiday, what they’re doing, whether it’s these incredibly posed shots in Palm Beach or the South of France or whether it’s people lying around a pool, you know those pool bars in Monte Carlo,” says Adam Brown, the founder of Orlebar Brown. “Those were definitely an inspiration point for us when we started OB. It’s a bit of fun, it’s lighthearted, it’s very visual.”
The original concept behind Orlebar Brown was to provide “a more tailored approach to men’s beach and swim shorts. Not so much a swim short but a short you can swim in.” Of this particular collection, he says: “It’s vivacious, it’s out there, it’s fun, it’s humorous. You don’t take life too seriously, you’re not just wearing a monochrome gray, black and navy. You’re being brave.”
Below, he fills us in on the Savile-Row-style craftsmanship that goes into each pair of swim shorts and where he goes to find the good life.
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So how did you get into designing?
I started out as a pretty bad photographer, but I went on a particular holiday to a friend’s 40th in Rajasthan, where it was a mix of single, married, gay, straight, men, women, every group you can imagine and they were all between 25 to 50 years old, and I was looking around, maybe with too critical an eye, thinking that the women in the group look great, and the men I thought looked ghastly. And also we had to go change for lunch from the hotel—you’re sitting at the pool and you have to go and change, which I just thought was ludicrous so the whole premise for our brand has always been we’re not a swim short, we’re a short you can swim in. We’re that tailored approach: the side fasteners, the 17-pieces pattern—
17 pieces, wow!
Yes, 17 pieces. If you made a pair of trousers—a man’s pair of trousers—it would be a 17-piece pattern. The suit trousers in Savile Row are 17 pieces. It’s a short you can swim in. You can wear it by the pool and then go have lunch, I like that idea—I don’t want to buy swim shorts, I want a pair of shorts that I can spend the whole day in and they’re smart enough that you can put a shirt on and go have a drink in the evening.
Tell us about your current collection, which you’ve said was inspired by the idea of “an Englishman abroad.”
Yes, the story of the collection this year is an Englishman abroad—whether it’s Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited or John Mills traipsing through the desert trying to be a hero or David Niven in Cap Ferrat or whether it’s the mix of rock and roll—Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret in Mustique in the 70s. The thing about the Englishman abroad is it conjures up so many images. That’s where our roots are—we are quintessentially English; the references to the Savile Row suit, the tailored approach to swim shorts, it’s an English thing. English tailoring has a character, has a mood that I think will always be a part of it.
So what is the best trip you’ve ever taken—speaking of Englishmen abroad.
My favorite beach in the world is Macaroni in Mustique, which I think is so exotic; I love the water there, the waves, the houses—it’s amazing. But the best trip I’ve ever taken was when I went trekking in the Andes, just camping and trekking in the Andes. It was completely remote; we didn’t see a soul for four days. I hope that spirit comes across in what we do. I hope that our customer is the person who will do that—and they’ll go to Mustique, and they’ll go to Ibiza.
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Well, we did some research to find out where each of these iconic images was shot, so now we have some advice on what to wear when you go there (which you’ll undoubtedly want to do after seeing these images), along with what to sip while you’re there, what to pack in your suitcase and what films to watch to get you feeling the local spirit…
Wear: Orlebar Brown Jamaica Anniversary Print Bulldog Trunks
Also pack: A classic Orlebar Brown polo and an El Casco travel backgammon set (this image is all about old-school leisure)
Drink: Rum punch
Watch: “Rear Window” (Jimmy Stewart’s character was based on Slim Aarons, who shot this image)
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Wear: Orlebar Brown Deep Sea Anniversary Print Bulldog Trunks
Also pack: Castañer espadrilles and Assouline’s “In The Spirit of Capri”
Watch: Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt,” starring Brigitte Bardot and shot on Capri
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Wear: Orlebar Brown Deckchairs Anniversary Print Bulldog Trunks
Also pack: Borsalino hat and Catherine Zadeh’s coconut-shell bracelet
Drink: Coconut water & pisco (don’t knock it ’til you try it—it’s life-changing)
Watch: “From Here to Eternity,” because that classic romp in the surf was shot in Hawaii
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Wear: Orlebar Brown Diving Anniversary Print Bulldog Trunks
Also pack: a Brera diving watch and Kiehl’s SPF for men
Drink: Tequila, straight up
Watch: Anything by Jacques Cousteau, who explored the Mexican coast so often, they named an island after him
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Wear: Orlebar Brown Monte Carlo Anniversary Print Bulldog Trunks
Also pack: Thom Browne sunglasses and Renzo Romagnoli’s poker set
Drink: Kir Royale
Watch: “To Catch a Thief”