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Building a Brand of Hope From a Place of Deprivation: The Gandys Journey

Building a Brand of Hope From a Place of Deprivation: The Gandys Journey

Brothers Rob and Paul tragically lost their parents in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. After being orphaned, they decided to establish a brand in their parents’ name and grew Gandys, their footwear brand, into a global phenomenon, helping to find children’s homes in deprived regions of the world. Here, they shared with us their brilliant story of how their lives had come to be what they are today.

How it all started

The decision to sell everything that our family owned in the UK and to uproot to the other side of the world left its mark on our lives in so many more ways than we could ever have anticipated.

We had a bohemian upbringing travelling around the world with our parents and two younger siblings, living in other countries, sinking our teeth into other cultures and volunteering.

We had been living in India for four years and, in 2004, we went on holiday to Sri Lanka to spend Christmas. The following day, however, the Boxing Day tsunami hit and we tragically lost our parents. Ourselves and our siblings were fortunate enough to return to the UK where our strong network of friends and family supported us.

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Rob and Paul have always known how important a strong supportive network is 

Our parents instilled in us a keen interest in helping others and a powerful understanding of the world that only travelling can impart. We were only 17 and 15 years old when we were orphaned, but we knew very quickly that we wanted to continue our parents legacy and create something unique in their honour.

The Gandys Journey Begins

In 2012, we founded Gandys in order to support our ‘Orphans for Orphans’ foundation to help underprivileged children in challenging social positions.

Creating a fashion brand was the best way to express all of the different cultures we had absorbed on our travels, along with the brand’s simple philosophy:

-          Designed in London

-          Inspired by Travel

-          Fuelled by Giving Back

Created from our flat in Brixton with Paul sleeping on the sofa, we worked around the clock and invested everything we had in the brand. With no marketing budget, however, we had to be creative, which led to innovative marketing strategies. We campaigned outside Downing Street in protest of the poor UK weather in summer - we take full credit for the 24-degree heat that arrived the week after the protest following months of cold and rain! Even now, years later, we receive emails from fans who remember us tirelessly handing out postcards for the brand around London to raise its profile.

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The Children's Home that the Gandys brand managed to build 

Originally, we found it very tough to tell the personal story that was driving our dogged determination to get the brand off the ground and build a Children's Home. Everyone was so intrigued, however, that eventually the story came out, which rapidly generated press and media coverage.

From the outset, we used social media as a platform to engage with our fans and followers in order to develop the brand. Our very first customer was a young guy from Germany who discovered the brand via Facebook, and we now have a significant fanbase over all forms of social media and Instagrammers who we collaborate closely with. One of the most rewarding parts of the brand’s journey for us is seeing fans post Instagrams of them wearing Gandys designs on their own personal travels.

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Gandys Shop

Our First Kids’ Campus

By 2014, having funded other projects in Sri Lanka and India, we felt as though we had gained sufficient experience to start plans for our first-ever Kids’ Campus in Sri Lanka. Thanks to the incredible support we received, we were able to open the Kids’ Campus by the end of the year to mark the ten-year anniversary of the tsunami.

Assisted by volunteers, this Campus now helps over 400 people in the local community who were similarly impacted by the tsunami and has recently undergone an extension to help even more. We went out to Sri Lanka to visit the Kids’ Campus over Christmas, which was featured on Sky News and ITV news on Boxing Day.

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Rob and Paul at the Kids' Campus 

2016: A Big Year

Last year, we were approached for collaborations with Liberty London, V&A and The Rolling Stones. Today, over 250,000 people worldwide wear these limited edition flip flops. The Rolling Stones collaborative flip flops were even displayed at the Saatchi Gallery in the ‘Exhibitionism’ exhibition that is currently travelling to NYC, LA, Sydney and Tokyo.

Our brand also expanded even further as we launched our very first clothing collection. Every product incorporates elements of our unique upbringing of travelling, from the travel-printed linings in our jumpers, shirts and jeans, to the backpacks essential for any adventurer, to our signature round towels patterned with travel-inspired designs. Our swim shorts collection was stocked in John Lewis and is further confirmed for 2017.

The photoshoots for the collections also involved travelling – to stunning Moroccan beaches and waterfalls for the Spring/Summer shoot and to the rugged Icelandic landscape for Autumn/Winter – so, more than anything, this has been a very fun experience for us!

We also opened our first stores in Summer last year, including our flagship store in London, Spitalfields which attracts visitors both nationally and internationally. Gandys is now the favourite fashion destination for travellers of the world.

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Image from the Gandys S/S shoot

This Year

We have ambitious plans for the year ahead too, including building our second Kids’ Campus in Malawi, opening several more stores around the country and organising a big press trip with Instagrammers at our kids’ campus.

We hope that we can get even more people to join our journey to build even more Kids’ Campuses all over the world, honouring the legacy of our parents by creating a better future for those less fortunate.

Looking to book Rob Forkan, or for another speaker on entrepreneurship, marketing and branding or leadership?

We represent a total of over 6000 speakers, with 1000 listed on our website. For more info., call us on +44 (0) 20 7607 7070 or email us at info@speakerscorner.co.uk.

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