In Conversation with Harry Brantly of Frescobol Carioca

Hailing right from the heart of Rio de Janeiro, Frescobol Carioca translates Brazil’s colourful and playful identity into all of their designs. Transporting you straight to the white sands, caipirinha in hand, the country’s artistic and vibrant heritage plays a big part in the brands aesthetic. We sat down with co-founder and director of the brand Harry Brantly to get the inside scoop on everything from sustainability of the brand to his frescobol skills

Frescobol Carioca

Frescobol Carioca

#1 Did you always want to work in fashion? 

I wouldn’t say that I always knew I wanted to work in fashion – my business partner Max and I met when we were 13 and actually both studied business at Edinburgh, going on to work in finance once we had graduated – but I think I always had an entrepreneurial spirit; I used to sell chocolate outside the front of my house as a child!

#2 Where did the idea for Frescobol Carioca come from?

The idea for Frescobol Carioca came about when Max and I went on a surfing holiday to France, and ended up spending all of our time playing with a set of traditional Frescobol bats that he had been given as a present. They garnered a lot of attention from passers by and we realised there was an opportunity to introduce the sport to a European audience. After that we spent a year or so letting the idea bubble in the background whilst still working, packing up boxes of beach bats in the evenings and running to the post office in our lunch breaks, before committing full time in 2013. Finance had never really suited me and I always had the urge to do something creative, so it felt like a natural move.

#3 You started the business purely selling Frescobol Carioca bats, what inspired you to move into the fashion element of the business?

I think that we always knew that there was an opportunity to grow Frescobol Carioca into a clothing & lifestyle brand and we felt that resortwear was a natural progression. At the time we launched, the men’s resortwear market was small- we found that all of our friends had swim shorts from the same brand and there wasn’t really anyone else tapping into the demand. Our  mission is to deliver the Carioca lifestyle to an international audience; Rio style is all about being laid-back and prioritising having fun, whilst also looking and feeling confident. Now we’ve moved from selling wooden bats on a very rudimentary website into a fully fledged ready to wear line with three London stores and over 200 global stockists, still with Frescobol at the heart of the brand.

#4 The inspiration behind the designs come straight from Rio de Janeiro itself, where are your favourite places to visit when in the city?

I always like to take an early morning walk around the Jardim Botânico. Roberto Burle Marx was partially responsible for the lay out and it houses thousands of species of tropical plants. Because of all the vegetation and proximity to the ocean, it is often cooler than the rest of the city making it a great way to clear your head and start the day. I like to stop by one of the cobals (casual markets) that happen on dedicated days of the week as they are a great spot for people watching and soaking up the local Carioca culture. And then I would say spend as many days as possible at the beach at Arpoador that you can- it’s a little less busy than the other stretches so it’s the perfect spot for  soaking up the sun and eating acai, and there’s a good little wave. Finish up with visit to the Copacabana Palace for a caipirinha (or two!) for a classic taste of Rio that’s hard to beat.

Stone Arpoador, Brazil

Stone Arpoador, Brazil

#5 The colourful prints in Frescobol collections are inspired by the mosaics as well as the rich art and design culture in the city, are there any must-see spots you would recommend in Rio?

Rio itself is such a unique space. The city provides a visual backdrop that really is unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s a truly modern metropolis set at the meeting point of the Atlantic ocean, pristine beaches, lush rainforest and Sugarloaf mountain. It’s so visually diverse and exciting and we always hope to convey the rich beauty of the landscape to our customers. I always tell first-time visitors to the city that even if it seems like a cliche, a visit to Cristo has to be done. The view from the top is really the only way to get a sense of the vast scale and interconnected nature of all these aspects of the city. And any Oscar Niemeyer building is a must-see (the Teatro Popular is a great example within Rio)- he’s one of the most fundamental figures in modern architecture and his work is a constant source of inspiration for our design team.



#6 How would you rate your Frescobol skills?

I can certainly hold my own, but my business partner Max takes the top spot in the office. We used to joke that we were national champions, as the self-appointed UK representatives of the sport. That being said, we actually didn’t fare too well at our recent Frescobol on Tour event in Barcelona with Soho House – we were beaten by novices, so maybe we aren’t quite as well-practiced as we used to be!

#7 What’s your favourite piece from the Coggles collection?

I would have to say our Pangra Sports Swim Shorts, because they’re so easy to wear & I really like the beautiful print. They are a fresh take on our Angra trunks, which are part of our signature House Collection and inspired by the mosaics that line the sidewalks of Rio. Our swim shorts come in 3 different styles of fit (sport, tailored & classic). I love the Classic cut, because it looks smart from the front but the elasticated back is very comfortable/ forgiving – which is what everyone wants when they’re on the beach! The Bubble Knit Polo Shirt for next season is great too, because it’s such a unique & premium texture. It’s very easy to wear and adds a touch of elegance to your outfit. We only launched knitwear a couple of seasons ago, so I’m really enjoying seeing our range develop. Watching our in-house design team work to expand the limits of resort wear into different textiles & silhouettes has been very exciting.

#8 How sustainable is Frescobol Carioca? 

Sustainability is really important to us – it’s included in our brand pillars. We have a specific in-house team dedicated to developing and researching products and processes that are more environmentally conscious and sustainable. We also consult with local authorities to gain advice on how to improve our sustainability status within our supply chain.

We’re always trying to use more sustainable fabrics & processes – we currently work with Tencel in a lot of our pieces, a biodegradable fibre spun from eucalyptus sap. Our swimwear and apparel are produced in Europe, in a step to try and reduce our carbon footprint. I’m particularly proud that our wooden beach bats are and always have been handcrafted from off-cuts of wood from the Brazilian furniture industry, a great step in reducing waste.

We are also conscious to reduce textile waste, and so rather than releasing regular product drops, we prefer to launch a curated collection of styles seasonally, to sit alongside our signature styles which are available all year round.

Frescobol Carioca

#9 How do you split your time between London and Brazil? And are you tempted to swap the rain for the sunshine?

Yes, I’m always tempted! I’ve split my time between the two countries since I was at school, so I’m sort of used to it by now. Whilst my life and my family are in London, and we’re proud to be a British-based brand, my heart is always in Rio! I go back as often as I can. I aspire to embrace the Carioca culture as much as I can in my daily life, even in London. They prioritise spending time with family and friends and have a really healthy work/life balance, which sounds pretty great to me.

#10 What’s next for Frescobol?

We currently have a strong global presence, but we’re always looking for the next new market to explore and expand into! We want to grow deeper roots in the US, Australia, France & Germany. We’re also working on developing our Frescobol on Tour concept – a Frescobol tournament event which we have so far hosted at Little Beach House Barcelone & Soho House Miami. We’d love to take this to other parts of the world.


Words by Emma Bowkett

Interview with Harry Brantly

Emma Bowkett

Emma Bowkett

Writer and expert