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The Very Rio History of Frescobol Carioca

How two London financiers transformed their Brazilian roots into a globally loved luxury resortwear brand.

By: Alex KuchDate: 2024-01-09

Defining the “placeness” of a place is like trying to describe what music sounds like: it hardly does the subject justice. Not how you experienced it, at least.

The same goes for the famed beaches of Rio De Janeiro, often characterized by quartered limes and ice cubes swirling about the brim of the national cocktail, the caipirinha, accompanied by the nylon-string loops, syncopated claves and tender Portuguese melodies of bossa nova. But what’s it like to be there?

This is the story of how two friends transformed the spirit of Rio beach culture into a luxury resortwear brand that men everywhere are packing their suitcases with.

How Frescobol Met Carioca

A man in a blue shirt and white shorts walking on a beach

It starts with Brazilian natives and lifelong friends, Harry Brantly and Max Leese, spending time away from their lives as London financiers in France’s west coast. The trip was intended as a surfing holiday, though they spent most of their time playing Frescobol: a racket sport that consists of two or three players keeping a rubber ball from hitting the ground with “beach bats”. It’s been Brazil’s favourite beach pastime since its invention in 1945.

Soon, entranced onlookers turned to enthusiastic inquirers, watching the two friends swinging their wooden bats in hopes of keeping the ball in the air as long as they could, asking about this game they’d never seen before. Harry and Max had just introduced the spirit of Rio beach life to another place: and people loved it. That’s when they decided to start a label to share their native beaches with the world.

From Beach Bats to Resortwear

A man standing on a wooden dock with the ocean in the background

Swim shorts and camp collars weren’t part of the Frescobol Carioca’s initial offerings. Instead, it was a collection of premium beach bats that first dropped in 2013. It was a way of honouring the Brazilian sport that garnered them attention back in France’s west coast while simultaneously marking the brand with true Carioca identity, reaching out to vacationers everywhere and the locals back home.

Soon after, Harry and Max sought to fill a void in the luxury resortwear market with an authenticity and excitement that was missing at the time. Next came the launch of a swimwear line, featuring swim shorts in three silhouettes adorned in prints influenced by the mosaic boardwalks of Copacabana and other iconic Rio beaches—one of the many works of Roberto Burle Marx’s landscape architecture.

As the brand broadened its product offerings, its range of local influences followed, referencing everything from Oscar Niemeyer’s modernist architecture to Jardim Botânico—the colonial botanical gardens of Rio—to the original Bossa Nova album covers of the 1950s and 1960s, which continue to be the soundtrack of Rio’s beach life to this day. The inspiration is wonderfully applied in a display of wavy, nonchalant prints.

The Collection Today

A man with three hats on his head, one on top of the other

Today, Frescobol Carioca has a full collection of resort pieces, including camp collar sport shirts, terrycloth polos, Panama hats, beach towels, footwear, and even surfboards. Together, the brand conveys the spirit of Rio beach culture, where the Cariocas value play over work and tranquility over calamity.

Bring some of that energy onto your next vacation and shop the brand here.

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