Tsunami orphans fashion the future

Fran Taylor

A new fashion retailer, who commits ten per cent of its profits to building orphanages, arrived in Royal Victoria Place this week.

Gandys was started by brothers Rob and Paul Forkan, who tragically lost their parents in 2004 when the Boxing Day tsunami hit the coast of Sri Lanka. They were just 17 and 15 at the time.

Speaking to the Times, older brother Rob explained how after ‘only just escaping ourselves’ they were determined to turn such a traumatic experience into something positive:

“It gives us our drive. We know you can take nothing for granted, because we know how short life can be.”

They committed to supporting fellow orphans in the small island nation by starting Gandys in 2012. One part retailer, selling patterned flip-flops; one part charitable foundation – supporting children in Sri Lanka.

After generating revenue on both fronts, they managed to open their first ‘Orphan for Orphans’ home in 2014, the tenth anniversary of the tsunami.

Moving on from footwear, the brand quickly expanded to sell summer clothing and swimwear. They achieved a major breakthrough this year when they were stocked by John Lewis, with Gandys becoming the department store’s most popular swim-short brand.

This success has emboldened them to expand into more areas of clothing, including shirts, jackets and trousers.

The brothers are aiming to pull off ‘a completely new concept’ with the design of the Tunbridge Wells store.

The theme will be based around ‘building’, with faux-brickwork and concrete slab items alluding to the brand’s project of building a second children’s home in Malawi.

On arriving in town, Rob is hoping they will be well received, adding: “We get a lot of online orders from Tunbridge Wells, so I’ve got a good feeling about it.”

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