Vilebrequin: A passionate past

CEO Roland Herlory shares the story behind the swimwear brand and introduces its new sunglasses range


I've lived in St Barts since 2001, and while I travel a lot for work, when I'm in St Barts I wake up at 6am, dedicate my mornings to work and in the afternoon I walk on the beach and go swimming. By observing island life, I get constant inspiration for new Vilebrequin collections. Vilebrequin has a very unique history, and there's no other fashion brand that has over 45 years' expertise in luxury swimwear for men and women.

The company began in 1971 because of a love story. Founder Fred Prysquel was a Formula 1 journalist; he fell in love with a woman who lived in St Tropez and he moved there to seduce her. However, he didn't feel comfortable wearing the style of men's trunks that were popular at the time, so he decided to create what are now considered to be the first modern swimming shorts for men. Before that, surfers had worn a similar style, but while surf shorts were designed for performance, Prysquel designed for elegance.

He started to receive a lot of compliments on his shorts, which were inspired by colourful fabrics he'd brought back from Africa. Before long, people were asking him to make pairs for them, so he enlisted the help of local women who had sewing machines. He married the woman he loved, and the business quickly became a success. As his real passion was cars, he named the brand Vilebrequin, after the French word for 'crankshaft' – the motor-engine part.

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Bold prints remain at the heart of the company, and we have a sea turtle print that we produce every year in a different colour. We give €10 from every pair of these shorts sold around the world to the French Polynesian charity Te Mana O Te Moana, which works to protect the future of sea turtles. I believe large companies today have a big role to play in helping society and should give back what they can.

As a natural progression from swimwear, we recently launched a collection of sunglasses, as part of our vision to build a lifestyle inspired by the art of living in summer. Sunglasses are a big part of the beach uniform, after all.

For the lenses, we've partnered with the world's leading lens manufacturer, Carl Zeiss, using category-3 technology that's anti-glare and UV-free. There are 24 different models, each featuring discreet 'V' rivets and crankshaft-inspired arms engraved with the message 'Vilebrequin fonde a St-Tropez en 1971', to tell the story of our heritage.

ROLAND HERLORY worked at Hermes for over 20 years before joining Vilebrequin as CEO in 2012;

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