Brothers who lost both parents in the 2004 tsunami reveal how they created an outerwear brand

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Brothers Rob and Paul Forkan currently run a successful sustainable clothing brand that has not only received support from a number of celebrities, but also works to improve the lives of underprivileged children across the world.

But their journey began in tragedy after the brothers lost both their parents in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami while the family were traveling in Sri Lanka.

Rob and Paul were just 15 and 17 when they were orphaned during the tsunami that devastated parts of Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, killing 230,000 people in just a matter of hours. 

Brothers Rob and Paul Forkan currently run sustainable clothing brand Gandys that works to improve the lives of underprivileged children across the world

Brothers Rob and Paul Forkan currently run sustainable clothing brand Gandys that works to improve the lives of underprivileged children across the world

The brothers survived by clinging on to the roof of a building when the giant wave hit the coastline. Their parents Kevin and Sandra had managed to get their younger brother, Mattie, then aged 12, and sister, Rosie, eight, to safety but were then swept away. 

The four siblings were forced to trek across the country before they were able to return to England where they were adopted by their older sister Marie, who was 21 at the time, and cared for by their extended family and friends.

In 2012, the brothers, now aged 32 and 30, decided to set up a clothing company to honour the memory of their parents who had not only taught them the value of travel and adventure, but also the importance of giving back.

Paul told DailyMail.com: ‘We had a bohemian hippy upbringing where we travelled around the world and volunteered and we wanted to continue our parents’ legacy.’ 

It was Gandys vision to open as many kids campuses around the world as possible, and the brothers have now set up four across the globe, including one in Nepal (pictured)

It was Gandys vision to open as many kids campuses around the world as possible, and the brothers have now set up four across the globe, including one in Nepal (pictured)

Gandys was grown out a bedroom at the brothers’ flat in Brixton. The company initially sold flip flops, but has since expanded to sell other travel-inspired clothes and fashion accessories.

Having grown up travelling around the world volunteering for various causes, it was always essential to Rob and Paul that their business helped those less fortunate than themselves.

It was Gandys vision to open as many kids campuses around the world as possible, and in 2014 the brothers set up their first Orphans for Orphans children’s home in Matugama, Sri Lanka.

They now have three further campuses in Malawi, Nepal and Brazil. These not only provide a place where children can receive an education, nutritious meals and medical care, but they also provide a common area for communities to come together.

The brothers set up Gandys to honour the memory of their parents who had not only taught them the value of travel and adventure, but also the importance of giving back

The brothers set up Gandys to honour the memory of their parents who had not only taught them the value of travel and adventure, but also the importance of giving back

Children at the Nepal campus learning craft skills

The Forkan family

Having grown up travelling around the world volunteering for various causes, it was always essential to Rob and Paul that their business helped those less fortunate than themselves

Gandys has been supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Richard Branson, and has received social media shoutouts from the likes of Jessie J, Louise Thompson and Jack Maynard, among other celebrities.  

Paul explained that Gandys products are designed to be ‘an affordable luxury’. He said: ‘My brother and I are the guys next door, we’re not fancy or fashion-y, we make products that everyone can wear.’ 

Along with the flip flops that helped the brand make its name, Gandys also sells outdoor wear such as fleeces, jackets and coats, and a selection of hard-wearing bags and accessories.

Last night, they launched the limited-edition Tracker Collection, inspired by the birth of the observational safari culture, which includes a selection of bags and backpacks featuring a high-quality subtle animal print waxed canvas.

Paul and Rob, who now live in Wimbledon, south London, have also released a book Tsunami Kids: Our Journey from Survival to Success that tells their story of surviving the tsunami and growing Gandys into a multinational clothing brand.

Paul (left) and Rob (right) at the official opening of the Nepal kids campus

Paul (left) and Rob (right) at the official opening of the Nepal kids campus

Starting with their bohemian upbringing and unconventional education, the book describes how the siblings learned the independence and resourcefulness that would help them turn a tragic experience into something positive.

Despite the success of the company, Gandys has suffered with many of the struggles experienced by small businesses during COVID-19. But the brothers are determined to keep the company going so they can continue to help as many children as possible and spread the values their parents taught them.

Paul said: ‘What we went through was through was horrible, but what we had seen as children travelling around the world was much worse in some ways. Other children don’t have the support and care in place that we did. 

‘Everyone should have a good start in life,’ he added: ‘At the end of our life we can know we did everything we could.’



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