Oc-exclusive the swim shorts in multi flag OC-exclusive the swim shorts in red/light blue oc-exclusive the swim shorts in real red/navy oc-exclusive the swim shorts in green/white/light blue Ian in his London studio

OC London Exclusive: An Interview with Ian Hundley of Hundley Swim

BY Alice Newell-Hanson | Tue. July 31, 2012 | 12:00 AM | OC
The opening ceremony has been and gone (yes, that was real) and the Olympics are here! Late last week, we checked in with OC friend Ian Hundley in London. Ian's first collection of swim shorts is now available exclusively at OC. Made specially for the opening of our very sporting new London store, each pair of Hundley Swim shorts is a hand-sewn patchwork of colorful cotton sailcloth.

A sometime model, artist, tailor, and summer camp lifeguard, Ian has always enjoyed swimming and clothes. We asked him for a full history of his lifelong loves and he told us about growing up in Canada, modeling with his brother Marc alongside Linda Evangelista, and helping Stella McCartney to fit the Team GB uniforms.

Shop Hundley Swim at OC London, our 10 Greene Street store in NYC, and our online London pop-up.

Alice Newell-Hanson: Do you remember the first time you went swimming?
Ian Hundley: I started swimming when I was three, because I grew up on a lake in Canada. I also went to summer camp every year for ten years. I became a camp counselor!

ANH: Did you teach swimming?
IH: No, I was a lifeguard at camp! I loved it, it was so much fun. Summer is my favorite time of the year. I hated high school and I grew up in a small town which was quite safe. I guess I was different without even knowing it. But in the summer, all our friends were from the city because they spent the vacation by the lakes. The city kids were always more tolerant of different things. It's how I learned anything I knew about fashion.

ANH: Was there a lifeguard uniform?
IH: No, not really. I think the only thing required was a whistle and possibly a clipboard? But I always wore a T-shirt because I was so self-conscious—I was a really thin kid so it never came off.

ANH: But you and your brother started out modeling in New York, right?
IH: [Laughs] Yeah, we did! After high school in Canada, Marc and I went to London for three months. All we'd do is go to clubs and so we met this designer. We didn't know he was a designer at the time, but he gave us his friend's number and told us that if we were ever in New York he'd photograph us. This is when Marc and I were young and a little more androgynous looking, and it was the 90s—and this is in contrast to me not wanting to take my T-shirt off! But Marc and I were like, "We're never going to go to New York." When we finally did go to the city, a year later, we called the number and it was Steven Meisel's number! He ended up shooting us for a magazine.

ANH: What magazine was it?
IH: I think it was Vogue! It was with Linda Evangelista. We knew very little about fashion but we understood who Steven Meisel was and who Linda Evangelista was. With all the supermodels at the time, in the early 90s, nobody didn't know who they were. It was so fun. We didn't know until we walked in and there she was, and we were delighted.

ANH: What were you wearing?
IH: It was something totally 90s. Probably white T-shirts and jeans. I bet it was CK. I think [Linda] was wearing a white dress, something very clean—she'd just got her new pageboy haircut.

ANH: How did you branch into your own creative projects?
IH: Marc and I ended up moving to New York a few months later. We were modeling and they were great jobs (editorials and shows) but we never made any money. We weren't models, really. Then we both started interning at Michael Kors, in the design department, and I started working for artists and sewing again. Growing up in a small town, we had a sewing machine and we would just make stuff.

ANH: What kinds of things?
IH: Shorts, mainly. I remember I stole some curtains from the math room and I turned them into shorts and wore them on the last day of school. They were horrible, like horribly made, but they were the first shorts I'd made with zippers, totally ill-fitting, a horrible mustard color. I started doing more work with my sewing machine after Michael Kors: experimenting, making stuff for friends, and making props for photo shoots. Then I started making quilts and that took off for a while.

ANH: So Hundley Swim is your first venture into making products under your own name?
IH: Yes, I just needed a push and I got one.

ANH: What was it?
IH: Deportation!

ANH: That'll do it. So, how do you make a pair of shorts?
IH: Exactly! Right now, I'm doing everything myself. The production happens either in England or in Portugal. I had some fashion graduates who helped me out. I've learned how to make patterns, so these ones are all custom-made. When I first started making them, I really had swimming in mind. It's hard shopping for swimming shorts. I look for something color-blocked, with a good fit—not too long, not too big— and it's tricky to find. I wanted something with an 70s or 80s twist, with an elastic waistband and then just cotton. They have to neutral, something I can travel with.

ANH: What inspired the patchwork pattern?
IH: I elaborated on the idea of nautical flags.

ANH: I love your tags too, they remind me of the name tapes I used to have at school.
IH: That's because they are! Did your mom order Cash's? They're English. I found one sewn into a garment, and I just liked the idea—everyone had them in their clothes at camp.

ANH: What about the loops for your sunglasses?
IH: I like wearing sunglasses but I never know where to put them, especially if I'm on a beach. So I just put a loop on [the shorts] and it works. You have to really jump around for them to fall out.

ANH: What else are you working on at the moment?
IH: Well, the Olympics are keeping me busy! I'm helping Stella McCartney with the fittings for the athletes. She's making all the performance kit and when the product comes to a shoot, it might not be exactly right, so I work with her and we just tweak it. Right now, I'm fitting a lot of the athletes for the advertising and then I'm going to fit all the Paralympians for the actual games. It's exciting to meet them because they're all from such a different world! I'm used to working on shoots—I've been a tailor on sets for a while now—but in sports, they don't really care about what they're wearing, they care about performance. It's refreshing!

ANH: Do you have tickets to anything?
IH: Yes, diving!

ANH: That's the dream ticket!
IH: Yeah, that and swimming were the ones I really wanted to see.
ANH: What are you doing for the rest of summer?
IH: I'm going to Venice for four days! And then I'm going to Canada, to a cabin I share with my brother. I love it here but I need to get away, just swim in a lake, and not think about anything.

ANH: Does Marc have a pair of Hundley shorts?
IH: No, I don't think so. I have to give him some!

Shop Hundley Swim at OC London, our 10 Greene Street store in NYC, and our online London pop-up.