Thursday, 19 May 2011

Fashion and games from the beaches of Brazil

When I was about 10, my sister and I, together with a few of our neighbours, used to play tennis on our cul-de-sac in Bristol. There was no net; we simply used a visible strip of tarmac on the road to divide the two sides and adopted a rather honest – if unscientific – approach to decide when the ball was hit at a level deemed too low (i.e. if it were a real tennis court, the ball would have hit the net). We also didn’t use tennis rackets, at least not to begin with. Instead, we played with Frescobol bats. These are similar to the standard bat and ball people tend to play with on the beach, but they’re sturdier, cooler and slightly heavier – they’re Brazilian. So, it was all a bit nostalgic when I received an email from Harry Brantly, the co-founder of London-based FB Collection, a company that makes Frescobol bats in Brazil and sells them worldwide, including the UK.

Harry was born and brought up in Rio to a Brazilian dad and English mum – they met during Carnival. Since the age of 11, he attended school in the UK, returning to Brazil for holidays. So, like me, he is “bringing Brazil to the UK”. What started as a weekend hobby turned into a full-blown business in 2009, when Harry left his job as a banker to launch FB Collection in earnest with a friend.
Harry said he’d “have to kill me” if he told me where he made the Frescobol bats (so I didn’t push him on it), but he admitted that it was in the north of Brazil. “But we’re selling more than we can produce at the moment, so we’re looking to move production to Curitiba,” he explained. “We’re on track to double sales this year.”
The brand is sold in about 40 stores across the world, including two of my favourites in London – Selfridges and super-cool indie Wolf & Badger in Notting Hill, which is brilliant at nurturing up-and-coming brands.
Like a lot of my favourite types of entrepreneurs, Harry promotes sustainability in his business, making the Frescobol bats from left-over bits of wood originally destined for things like furniture. As a result, each bat is different and beautifully crafted.
Harry’s vision is to create a luxury beach brand, so in addition to Frescobol, the business sells men’s trunks and linen beach towels, with further brand extensions in the pipeline. Like the Frescobol bats, the same attention to detail has gone into the quality and design of the trunks and towels.
Harry commissioned Brazilian artist Caio Locke to design the prints for next year’s swimming trunks. “Rather than just sitting in a studio drawing dolphins, he travelled to Rio to be inspired by the Carioca scene,” Harry said.
Anyone for Frescobol?

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