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Flying high with Adam Brown

  • Business
  • By Lauren Godfrey
  • Published 03 May 2018
  • Published 03 May 2018

The man behind Orlebar Brown and the person we should thank for bringing fashion back to the poolside, Adam Brown has got an awful lot to answer for. A former portrait photographer, Brown’s vision to create a short you can swim in rather than a typical swim short has certainly taken flight, and after 10 years of designing sophisticated swimwear for men it’s safe to say that he’s changed the face of beachwear. With travel being a big part of Brown’s life, both professional and personal – “travel is the core of what OB is all about, it’s intrinsic to who we are, what the brand is and what the products are for” –  we caught up with the founder and creative director of Orlebar Brown to talk holidays, hotels and, of course, fashion.

Travel is the core of what OB is all about, it’s intrinsic to who we are, what the brand is and what the products are for

Why did you start Orlebar Brown?

“Why not? I spotted an opportunity, it was something that was niggling away at me for years, then while on holiday in Rajasthan I was turned away from a restaurant at lunch for wearing my swim shorts so I decided that I needed a short I could swim in, not a swim short. I didn’t want to wear baggy boxer short style swimwear. I wanted something more tailored and this particular experience kind of kick started me into trying to make it a reality.”

Did you ever think that your concept would develop into a 10-year strong, successful business?

“No way. I had no idea of fashion, retail, product or online. I just love the idea of starting something from scratch and bringing it to life from the very start. I had no preconceptions of what Orlebar Brown was going to be and it was nice to see it take shape.”

Can you sum up Orlebar Brown in one sentence?

“We launched as a tailored approach to swim shorts and now Orlebar Brown is a collection of resort clothes that are designed for sunshine, travel, happiness and good times.”

What sets Orlebar Brown apart from other brands?

“The main difference with OB is that it has swimwear at the centre of its collection and everything else OB designs has to go with the swim short. Whether that’s a jacket or a shirt, it all has to be worn with the swim short, whereas many other male fashion collections include swim as an add-on. For OB, it’s the core.
“I’ve seen Orlebar Brown shorts being worn everywhere. I’ve seen them in Ibiza, in Mykonos, in the South of France… and actually in Soho with people wearing them as daytime shorts.” 

What does travel mean to you and Orlebar Brown?

"Travel is the core of what OB is about and personally I love travelling. I was born in Malaysia, brought up in Hong Kong and Japan, and I was fortunate enough to go abroad every year as a child on family holidays. I’ve been very blessed to have travel as a big part of my life. Whether it’s to unwind, to see interesting new places and cultures or just to explore somewhere different, to me travel is just so important."

Have your personal travel experiences influenced the Orlebar Brown designs?

“Most definitely. I remember being in Bhutan two years ago and the colours I saw there really influenced a specific collection. Elements such as sunlight and the way it changes colour definitely influence the tones and brightness that we use.”

Where’s your favourite place in the world?

“Weirdly, my favourite place in the world is North Cornwall. That’s my particular place, mainly because I don’t go there for work and it’s somewhere I’ve always gone as a child. I have a varied travel taste. I went to Chile last year and Bhutan the year before that to explore. But then I also went to Mykonos and Ibiza too and really loved leisurely laying on a sun lounger with friends. It was a totally different vibe! My favourite element about travel is the different ways in which you can enjoy it.”

What destinations are on your bucket list?

“I love extremes so Antarctica for the ice and somewhere right in the middle of the desert for the heat. Either of these experiences would be such an exploration of the senses. I think going to Antarctica with the massive reams of ice would be amazing but equally being somewhere that was intensely hot that was alien to what I understand would be hugely exciting.”

Can you tell us about your favourite holiday?

“My favourite holiday was as a child learning how to surf in North Cornwall. I seem to remember that everything was good. I don’t imagine it was at all, and I bet the weather was pretty much dreadful the whole time, but my memory of it is nothing but fondness. 
“Also, last year I visited Atacama and went trekking around the volcanoes in Chile which was really amazing. The year before that I experienced a trekking holiday in Bhutan which was phenomenal.”

Where do you like to sit on a plane?

“I would like to turn left but I turn right… The aisle is my seat of choice. I hate being cornered by the window and I will never sit in the middle of a row.”

Do you have a favourite hotel?

“Staying in a hotel is about experience so whether its incredible grand, or incredible remote, or incredibly basic or incredibly eco-friendly, it just needs its own sense of purpose. What I hate is somewhere that’s just there for you to put your head down and sleep, it has to have a personality about it. The Aman hotels in Bhutan and Soneva Fushi, an eco-friendly resort in the Maldives are a few of my favourites.”

What are your packing essentials?

“Clean T-shirts because I always spill food down my front when I’m eating. If I’m going on a long-haul flight I always pack three OB T-shirts – both long sleeve and short sleeve – as they take up no room and you can quickly change and feel fresh in an instant. I also pack by colour store so I’d usually go for blue or denim so you don’t have to take as much but my essentials always include OB Bulldog shorts and a variety of OB T-shirts. Oh, and I always have my iPad and a pack of cards in case the iPad runs out of battery.”

Where’s your next holiday to?

“I’m hopefully off to Cape Town in February and there’s talks about going to the Himalayas early next year to do another trek.”

To find out more about Orlebar Brown and to discover the brand’s latest collection visit


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