How a surf-mad mom’s homemade ‘changing dress’ now sells for £ 150 a pop
From the first light, they begin to appear. In a kaleidoscope of vivid blues, vivid pinks, glossy blacks or camouflage, sometimes with casual trims, they weave their way through sand dunes, on pebble beaches, along pontoons or along rivers. banks.
No, not a rare species of exotic wading bird, or even members of a strange new cult (although some people may disagree with the latter).
In fact, they represent a new breed of “wild” swimmers; the one who ditched old soggy towels and a groped change of clothes by the water’s edge to embrace the great outdoors inside a shiny “dryrobe” – a comfortable, waterproof tent-shaped dress invented by the surfer of Cornwall Gideon Bright.
A comfortable, waterproof tent-shaped dress invented by Cornish surfer Gideon Bright, pictured with his mother, Anne
Fitness guru Joe Wicks has a dry robe; singer Harry Styles too, TV’s Poldark Aidan Turner and even Rita Ora
Or, more precisely, his 82-year-old surf-mad mom, Anne.
In recent years, more than half a million dry dresses have been sold for around £ 150 a pop, first to swimmers and surfers and then to professional sportsmen. Lately, they seem to have become staple items for actors between scenes on set and increasingly the outfit of choice for early morning dog walkers and school moms and dads. They have also been spotted in the aisles of Waitrose!
Fitness guru Joe Wicks has one; just like singer Harry Styles, TV Poldark Aidan Turner and even Rita Ora. It has been described by a future fashion guru as “the must have accessory of the year”.
(Full disclosure, I have one, an electric blue number with a gray wool liner, and after an icy swim where my fingers turned yellow from the cold, I love him more than my kids.)
All of this, presumably, made Anne – who still surfs and boogie boards when not busy with her open water swimming group – as happy as a punch?
‘Oh no! She hates the hustle and bustle, ”Gideon says. “She just says, ‘Oh, carry on with you’ and changes the subject. She is very modest.
To be fair, all Anne cared about was keeping her 16-year-old son from catching pneumonia as he stood, shivering in the windswept parking lot of Godrevy, near St Ives, after a morning surfing in the winter of 1983.
“Mom has always been pretty hardcore – she hardly ever wears a wetsuit and, even now, only a shortie in the winter,” Gideon, 54, tells me. “But she hated seeing us kids cold. . . And she was very practical and always sewed for me and my sister. Shirts, shorts. . . once she made me a full costume!
In recent years, more than half a million dry dresses have been sold. Lately they seem to have become staple items for actors between scenes on set.
It was an old “changing towel” with an elasticated neck that her own mom had made for her that would prove Anne’s inspiration. She bought waterproof tent material and took out her sewing box.
The result was the rather striking cape affair that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Star Trek (the ’70s version!) That she unveiled on Christmas Day.
“It was huge. . . light blue waterproof material on the outside, with stripes on the top, a dark blue towel lining with an elasticated hole so your head can fit through and a hood with snaps, ”says Gideon. “She tried to make it look pretty flashy – she certainly put a lot of love into it.”
Meanwhile, he barely managed to pull out a “Wow, thank you mom,” before throwing it in the car and forgetting everything.
But the next time Gideon and his pals froze in the parking lot, struggling to get in or out of their wetsuits, that cape made perfect sense.
Suddenly everyone wanted to go. “We all used it and it was never washed, so it got very, very smelly. But it worked, ”he says. And this is perhaps where the astonishing British success story of the dryrobe began. Except no.
Gideon graduated, got a job as an extra on a surf movie, Blue Juice (starring Catherine Zeta-Jones), moved to London to work as a stage manager, had four children and, for twenty years, forgot everything about Anne. cap.
Then work dried up, life began to unravel and, needing new direction, he moved his family to a holiday home he owned in Devon.
“I hit rock bottom, my dad passed away – when your dad dies you think, ‘My God, nobody’s going to fix this but me’ – and I knew I had to do something, start a business, whatever. I just needed a product! ‘
His Eureka moment came when once again he was changing on the beach in a soggy dressing gown in the pouring rain and thinking, “This is stupid, really bad.
He remembered Anne’s cape and began to google for alternatives.
‘There was nothing. I could not believe it ! Not even in Australia.
It seemed Anne had been way ahead of her time and Gideon was convinced he was on to something. With no business knowledge, his last piece of money and a giant leap of faith, he started his business – dryrobe.
“I found the name. It hasn’t really rolled over the tongue, but it’s a dress and it keeps you dry, so it sort of works, ”Gideon says.
“I put it on my back so big because when I was wearing mine, everyone would ask me what it was. I had a laptop on my bedside table and got samples made by local seamstresses at a nearby chicken coop.
The very first dry bathrobe – a large, zip-front hooded robe with a wool / towel lining and a windproof / waterproof outer covering – was sold online in 2010.
Soon Gideon was selling them to friends for £ 100, more than double the cost of the terrycloth equivalent, but barely clearing £ 5 per dress.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, how can this get so expensive? I couldn’t lower the price without compromising on quality, but it just didn’t work.
A year later he invested in a garden shed like HQ and felt like he was drowning.
“I never looked at the accounts, I thought at one point that chaos might overwhelm me,” he said.
But he stuck with it, and eventually he hired his first staff member – a part-time accountant – and the fog started to lift. It was in 2012, after moving production to China, that things really started to take off.
A chance encounter with Team GB’s triathlon coach saw her dress transition from the leisure market to a staple for elite athletes, including Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, and five-time Paralympic swimming champion Ellie Simmonds.
Today, business is booming, Gideon is a millionaire (at least on paper) several times and has a team of 20, all of whom work in an office in his village because “the local is very important to me”.
Even before the lockdown, the craze for outdoor wellness – especially wild swimming and the benefits of cold water immersion – had cemented the popularity of the dryrobe.
But after months of the pools being closed and the only thing most of us could do was swim in very cold water with no changing rooms, the demand exploded.
While it does everything it promises, keeps you warm, warm, dry and flash-free – not everyone is a fan of the dryrobe, especially the old guard of regular sea and sea swimmers. river all year round, or “bold”.
For decades, they’ve done perfectly well with a towel or terry robe (if you have to).
They are used to a biting wind chill and barely flinch in waters that dip below 8c (46f).
They don’t need an expensive ‘new’ dress to change into and they certainly don’t feel the need to take endless selfies of themselves at the water’s edge, something dryrobers have been fond of. a penchant.
It all led to a tiny bit of shoreline shenanigans.
For example, in Sandycove, Dublin Bay, spirits were heated last November and a giant sign was erected by the Forty Foot swimming site that read: “On order: no bathrobes or types of bathrobes. !!! With a red line across an image of three people in dresses.
“Warning: beware of dry clothes with ******” reads another shrill poster spotted near Blackrock. A third has apparently been reported in Cornwall.
Several snippy social media accounts are also dedicated to catching wearers of dry clothes in supermarkets, hairdressers, around homes, at airports – just about anywhere there is no water.
Oh dear! While I can see that maybe there is something about us, the dry clothes, that might be shocking, it is surely best to actually be outside to experience nature, although it is inside our comfortable waterproof capes?
Gideon, meanwhile, insists that any anti-dryrobe joke is meant to be in a good mood.
“It’s a little fun,” he says. “I don’t care who’s wearing them or what they do in them, as long as they find them useful. It all just makes me equally grateful and amazed.
Fair enough too. After all, dryrobe allowed her to have fun on “a nice new home”, a new surfboard and a new wetsuit and a “less embarrassing” van.
What about Anne’s Star Trek prototype? Well, after a scream on Facebook from Gideon, he was finally found in the attic of one of his old surfing friends, Jasper.
“It will go to the local surf museum,” says Gideon proudly. ‘Although it is very smelly, because it has never been washed before. . . ‘