Robert Forkan and Paul Forkan: Gandys International
This remarkable fashion brand has turned tragedy into an inspirational vision endorsed by everyone from the Rolling Stones to the McLaren F1 team
Robert Forkan, 31 and Paul Forkan, 28
Company: Gandys International Limited
Few businesses have been forged from such tragic circumstances as Gandys.
The socially conscious fashion brand was created by brothers Robert and Paul Forkan to honour their parents, who lost their lives in the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004.
Yet, out of this nightmare has come one of Britain’s most inspirational companies, combining London trends with a boldly global focus.
Gandys was born in 2012 and started out selling flip-flops. Armed with only £2,000, the Forkans boot-strapped to the max from their Brixton flat: product shots were taken on an iPhone and the first international order was wrapped in gaffer tape, with a hand-written label.
Yet the business has grown from those humble begins, branching out into other garments popular with travellers, including swim shorts and a distinctive round beach towel. The range began to attract celebrity followers, including Richard Branson and Jessie J.
As demand grew, Rob and Paul saw the need to establish direct retail premises. Four shops were opened in 2016, including an outlet in the bustling Spitalfields district, and several more opened last year. A number of high-profile partners have endorsed the company’s designs, including the Rolling Stones and the McLaren F1 team.
Yet the key focus of the business is helping people.
Rob and Paul were taken out of their south London school in 2001 and whisked off on a journey around the world by their parents, who were doing humanitarian work. The brothers say their mum and dad taught them it was vital “to do more in life than just exist,” and this focus, combined with the wanderlust kindled by their nomadic childhood, continues to frame their vision today.
Rob and Paul opened their first children’s home in Sri Lanka in 2014, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Tsunami. Another facility opened in Malawi soon afterward, and now the brothers are planning to go global, starting with a new launch in Brazil next year.
The driving force behind this global programme is the Orphans for Orphans initiative, to which 10% of Gandys’ profits are channelled. Rob and Paul’s charitable work led to an invitation to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and Prince William has since promoted their brand.
The brothers say they have several marketing opportunities lined up over the coming months, and will be launching further stores in London before going UK-wide in 2020.
Blending this business expansion with their global charitable drive will take some doing, but it’s nothing compared to what they’ve gone through to reach this point,