The story behind the Gandys London clothing brand is a quite extraordinary one. Most companies are created with the focus firmly on turning over tidy profits with little regard for giving back, but in Gandys case this was essentially the opposite, with the brand formed against a mission statement to not just exist, but give back.
And give back they have. Inspired by the tragic loss of their parents in the 2004 Tsunami, Rob & Paul founded Gandys from their bedroom in London with the aim of building schools around the world in tribute to their parents. They’ve pursued this dream with passion, with 2012 seeing the brothers establish the Gandys Foundation to aid underprivileged children with education, medication and nutrition. And the following years have seen their life-changing Kids Campuses built in Sri Lanka, Malawi, Nepal, with another currently being built in Brazil.
The brand’s rather lovely clothing has been created with the industry’s hot button issues of sustainability and ethical sourcing at the forefront, and the effects on the environment are considered in every step of the process from garment design to being making in ethical factories and shipped by sea to lower their carbon footprint.
We caught up with Rob & Paul recently to find out more details on how Gandys London came about, the brand’s ethos and their hopes for the future. Without any further ado, let’s Meet the Brand.
The MALESTROM: Rob & Paul, can you tell our readers a bit about your story and the reason behind creating Gandy’s London…
Rob & Paul: We had a really unusual upbringing. Our parents took us out of school when we were aged 11 and 13 and we set out to travel the world. Along with our younger siblings, we explored the world, doing volunteer work along the way.
On Boxing Day 2004, our lives changed forever when we lost our parents in the tsunami. We were always raised to believe there is more to life than just existing and our parents made sure we understood the importance of travel and adventure.
We wanted to create something unique that would honour our mum and dad, as well as all those lost in one of the world’s biggest natural disasters.
After doing some travelling of our own and gathering inspiration, we began to visualise our products. We founded Gandys in 2012. Gandys was designed to give back to less fortunate children across the world.
We believe in using fashion as a force for good. The money we make goes back into building kids campuses, so far we have three campuses, located in Sri Lanka, Malawi and Nepal. The opening of our Nepal campus actually marks the 15-year anniversary of the tsunami. Our fourth campus will open in Brazil at the beginning of 2020.
TM: We love the way you’re giving back with your Kids Campuses. Tell us about that programme…
All our campuses offer vital support in a variety of areas. They provide accommodation, health support and academic guidance to the children. They’re also designed to give them a better head start in their careers, for example with craft classes like woodwork and jewellery making.
Each campus is individually designed to meet the needs of the children in that location. For example, the Nepalese campus offers support for victims of trafficking to Nepal and Northern India. Crucially, all of the campuses ensure the children are safely occupied outside of school hours.
TM: What are some of the pitfalls you’ve faced along the way in your business?
In the early days, we went global too quickly. At the time we were working with a team of interns and weren’t fully prepared for it. We launched in several department stores globally within an 18 month period. It was obviously really exciting for us, but a strong team is absolutely crucial. We now put a lot of time and effort into selecting and supporting our team.
TM: What is your ethos? And how important is it to the brand?
Our ethos is ‘Don’t Just Exist’, this is something our parents always instilled in us. It’s about challenging yourself, whatever that challenge may be. We believe people shouldn’t just let life pass them by, and that’s crucial to our brand and what we do as a business.
For example, our products are designed for a customer that lives by this, too. When we speak with them, we build a relationship. We get to know where they’re travelling to next and learn about their own upcoming challenges.
As a team, we’re always pushing ourselves to be creative and explore new things. Whether that be an incredible shoot location or a new collaborative project. Most recently we teamed up with Royal Enfield when touring Nepal. Having never ridden a motorcycle before, this was certainly something new.
TM: Tell us more about your products…
As mentioned, our products are inspired by travel. Everything is designed to meet the needs of travellers, whether that be hiking in sub-zero conditions or exploring urban city streets.
For us, one of the most important things is quality. We want our products to last and therefore make everything from high-quality materials designed for the wear and tear that comes with travelling the world.
We also focus a lot on the details. For example, the bird within the Gandys logo is inspired by our father, who drank an Indian beer named Kingfisher. Similarly, the wave within the letter A represents the tsunami. In our fleeces, the shape of the pocket is designed to resemble the children’s campuses and we use our signature map print in the lining of products where possible. We believe it’s detailing like this which makes our products unique.
Obviously sustainability and ethical sourcing is at the forefront of what we do. We use organic cotton, recycle scrap material and work with ethical factories.
TM: What’s the most popular item right now?
At the moment our most popular product is our outerwear, especially our statement Burnt Orange Blizzard Parka. This bold and lightweight jacket will keep you warm and protected during all winter weather conditions. Inspired by the thrill-seeking ranger who treks across the winter landscapes of rocky mountains and treacherous conditions, they provide protection from those spontaneous rain and snow showers.
TM: Of course, business is essentially about making money, but how important has it been for you guys to use business to make a positive difference in the world?
We’ve always done charity work, when we were travelling with our parents we did volunteer work. They always taught us it was important to help where you can. As we got older we continued to do charity work, but it became more difficult to find the time when working a full-time job.
Now we can do both. It’s great because when we’re working in our London HQ, we know we have people we can trust to oversee the campuses and we don’t have to worry about things there. We’re incredibly lucky to be able to say our jobs help children to get an education.
TM: What does the future have in store? What are your aims?
We have always said from the beginning that we want our products worn around the world. Meaning not just UK travellers, but travellers from every country. If we can succeed in this, we can succeed in building more and more campuses.
TM: What advice would you have for anyone thinking of starting their independent business?
It’s so important to do something you’re passionate about, otherwise, it’s going to be really difficult, especially when working until midnight! If you’re setting out on a business venture, make sure it’s with somebody you know well and genuinely get on with. We’re lucky to work with one another, it means we get to share all the highs and lows of the journey together. For us it doesn’t feel like a job, it’s our lifestyle.
TM: How important is it to engage with other like-minded brands?
We love collaborating and working with other brands, it’s a brilliant way to bring people together. As a rule, we only work with another brand if it’s genuinely close to our heart and we believe in what they do. For us, they have to be meaningful. For example, our first collaboration was with Liberty London. Our mother used to make us shirts from their amazing fabrics.
Similarly, we were so excited about doing something with The Rolling Stones, because they were our dad’s favourite band. We grew up listening to their music. Collaborations need to be genuine and people need to understand why it’s a good fit.
TM: What’s your favourite independent brand? Who would you nominate for us to feature next?
We’ve always followed Veja, they launched before us, in 2005. They grasped the importance of social responsibility even in the early days and like us, are using fashion as a force for good.
TM: How can people track you down?
You can keep up with what we do in a number of ways. There’s our Gandys London website which has regular blog posts. Our most recent includes our Nepal trip and gives you all the details of the journey.
You can find this at: https://www.gandyslondon.com/brothers-blog