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The future of fashion collaborations

The Peak speaks to Adam Brown, founder of Orlebar Brown, about keeping collaborations meaningful.

It’s not uncommon for watch and fashion brands to collaborate with other companies these days, but it’s not often that one sees them working together. In July, Swiss luxury watch brand IWC and Orlebar Brown dropped their first co-created capsule collection, comprising a Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph Edition “Orlebar Brown” and a nine-piece resort wear collection. They also decked out the Double Moon yacht by Solaris Yachts, paying homage to the Portugieser’s nautical heritage. Answering our questions via an audio recording done at his home in Cornwall, Orlebar Brown founder Adam Brown shares his thoughts on the partnership and what it takes for collaborations to be meaningful now that the industry is rife with them.

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How did your collaboration with IWC come about?

Christoph Grainger-Herr, the CEO of IWC, and I first met about two years ago. A mutual friend from e-commerce website Mr Porter introduced us by e-mail. Chris and IWC creative director Christian Knoop joined me for coffee at our office in London. It was relaxed and informal, and they presented mood boards and had definite ideas of what they wanted to do for the Portugieser watch this year. It was about the process of getting to know each other and having some very collaborative design meetings to create a story around the Portugieser Yacht Club watch.

  • Fashion Collaborations IWC

    A model wearing styles from the IWC and Orlebar Brown collection.

Are you a watch buff?

I have a range of watches, but I’m not a watch expert, just an enthusiast. I’ve bought watches since I could afford to do so and I have about 10 now. I got my first IWC watch about a decade ago as a gift from my partner. It was a Top Gun pilot’s chronograph with a green face and a dark green canvas strap. I still love it. I also love the feeling of having something smart on my wrist; something properly genius in a mechanical sense and an emotional sense. I like how a watch can change how you feel, whether it’s sporty, dressy or casual.

What was your inspiration for the capsule collection?

The inspiration was the Portugieser Yacht Club. IWC came with mood boards that depicted a particular lifestyle on the ocean in the Solaris yacht. It’s not about racing or being lazy on a sailboat but about a specific type of adventure and exploration. My favourite piece (from the collection) is the towelling blazer. I love the bright white  fabric with contrasting navy. Towelling is one of our signature fabrics because it has a classic, elegant resort appeal.

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How closely did you and IWC work together on the clothing and the watch?

For the collection, Christian had a lot of input on all the items, whether it was the weight of a fabric or colour used. For the watch, we had a lot of conversations about details such as the shade of blue to use on the dial, the placement of the red accents and the side-fastening clasp of the watch – a key feature because it references the side fastener that we use on our swim shorts.

Orlebar Brown has also partnered with Eon Productions for the third time to create a new collection of James Bond- inspired clothing. How do you choose the brands you work with?

In any collaboration, there have to be two elements to make it enjoyable. The first is that it has to take the two respective brands to different places – in this case, to enable the customer to perceive IWC and Orlebar Brown differently. Likewise, with the James Bond collection, it’s about a modern take on the classic Bond designs, with hero styles restyled, refabricated and re-detailed to make them Orlebar Brown. Secondly, the brands must have shared values. With IWC, it’s portraying the spirit of adventure, exploration and being outdoors. With James Bond, it’s about protection, adventure, humour, tailoring and style. Bond is instinctively English but ultimately international; he travels. All of these factors made it an easy decision to work with both partners.

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