Going swimmingly: Your junk deserves trunks

01 December 2016 - 09:49 By Emma Jordan

When photographer Fred Prysquel drew a pair of swim shorts on a napkin in a St Tropez cafe in 1971, he didn't know it would revolutionise the men's swimwear market. Named after a car's crankshaft, Vilebrequin quickly became the global byword for chic men's swimming trunks.

GIDDY UP: There's more to men's beachwear as brand Granadilla shows
GIDDY UP: There's more to men's beachwear as brand Granadilla shows

The original longer-length shorts were made out of spinnaker, a quick-drying sailcloth. In their vibrant colours Prysquel believed he'd captured the spirit of the swinging south of France.

The cut, the Moorea, is still Vilebrequin's biggest seller. The shorts are no longer made out of spinnaker but from a specially treated polyamide which is more tear-resistant and dries just as fast. It feels soft against the skin - as does the lining which is a polyester fibre surrounded by cotton. The netting and rear eyelets enable water to run through, ensuring they don't balloon.

But what sets Vilebrequin apart - and makes the brand instantly identifiable - are the fun motifs that have graced the butts of millions of men on yachts and beaches the world over.

From the turtle through other marine life and graphic prints in bright colours, the Vilebrequin je ne sais quoi always shines through.

Matching shorts are made for fathers and their small sons. The company's first collaboration, in 2013, was with the cult children's book Where's Waldo - the collection saw the wily Waldo hiding between the red awnings and cafe tables of St Tropez.


Current collaborations include a partnership with The Rolling Stones - a three-piece collection built off the band's 50th anniversary exhibition at London's Saatchi gallery. Vilebrequin has also partnered with Massimo Vitali, a photographer who has been snapping beach scenes for close to 20 years - together they have released two limited edition shorts with vistas of southern France.

Locally, Joshua Meltz and Adam Duxbury started Granadilla swimwear two years ago. Legend has it the young Capetonians were sitting on Clifton Fourth Beach when they decided to fill the gap for locally produced swim shorts with a pop edge.

With help from Meltz's father (of Meltz factory shops) the boys did an initial run of 300 trunks, half of which sold out in the first two weeks and the rest went to the South African e-commerce website Superbalist.

"That was our first mistake," says Josh. It took another year for Adam to quit his consulting job, enabling them to work full time on the brand which now employs eight people and ships all over the world.

"In season two we took it from a start-up to a little business," explains Josh.

"We did nearly 5000 pairs of shorts, all imbued with a sense of South African culture and South African iconography. Our aim is to create a world-class product with a South African feel."

They now have a stand-alone store in Menlyn, Pretoria, and pop-ups in Morningside, Sandton, and Cape Town, and are supplying stores along the coast.

"I think Adam and I are both incredibly ambitious people," says Josh.

"We're constantly looking for ways in which we can make Granadilla the best swimwear brand in the world."

The partners are planning a collaboration with award-winning local womenswear label Lalesso next year.

Another local brand doing very exciting collaborations is Temple of Reason. Founder Steffi Varoli was reading a book on the French Revolution when she came across the term Temple of Reason - a juxtaposition of opposing forces, the religious spirituality imbued in the ideas of temples and the didactic science behind reason. She liked the yin and yang of it.

Core to the Temple of Reason ideology is collaboration - it's not a byproduct or parallel strategy for an already established line. The first collection was launched with print designer Blandat - a deep, heady treasure of snakes, grenades and flirty chameleons.

The latest collection was with South African artist Tara Deacon, who, true to form, created a capsule collection of watercolours in aquas with jungle scenes and flowering bananas.

Next up, says Varoli, is the launch of a Cape Town photographic capsule collection at the end of December.

"Our shorts are really a beach-to-bar short," Varoli explains. ''They're perfect for swimming and lounging around in, then throw on a linen shirt and you're ready for dinner. It's effortless summer dressing."

It used to be that all you needed to go to the beach was a pair of polyester boxers. Not so anymore - now, the cut and colour of your shorts is a surreptitious status symbol.

And, when you know that it's a limited-edition once-off collaboration, you're truly top of the pile.