The Process: Designing Our Shorts

What goes in to producing the shorts that you pull on in the morning? How did they come to be, and why do they look, fit, and function in the way that they do?

Over the course of this year, we’re going to periodically document our process, giving you a backstage pass to Sunny Cove Studios and sharing every step in the designing and making of a pair of our swim shorts.

overhead view of menswear designer riz smith sketching mens swimwear in his london studio

As with everything, it all starts with an idea and a blank sheet of paper.  "Before starting Riz I worked as a designer for a big swimwear brand so, for me, fabric, function and fit are the foundations of all our designs” says founder Riz Smith, who oversees the entire process from conception to customer.  The very first step is to decide what the function of the shorts will be, as the dictates the form of the short; the fit.  Are they going to be a tailored fashion short, just at home in the bar as they are on the beach, or are they going to be designed for optimum movement for surfers, sailors or paddlers who spend hours out on the ocean?   “The lengths of our shorts are again based on their function,” continues Riz,  “We want to live in our shorts all day, from sunrise to sundown, so we opt for mid length and a little longer. It just means you can do more in them. They give great coverage when you’re sat on a board and you don't feel like you're wearing your swimwear on a street. The current trend is for quite short shorts which looks great; but it just isn’t quite us.”

mens swimwear designer riz smith measuring a pair of shorts during the design process

swimwear designer sketching a new swim short designer using pencil and paper

We currently have three different shorts with three different cuts that have been determined by their functions in and out of the water.  With each new season Riz refines the cut and various elements of the shorts slightly, based on both his own research and testing as well as feedback from a number of sources.

 “We are constantly refining the elements of our shorts, listening to customer feedback, testing them ourselves over and over, and also by asking for input from our friends and ambassadors. The idea is that we end up with a perfect short. Essential, balanced, loved.”

 Our strong belief that it’s the little things that count means that an awful lot of time and thought goes into each design, as we consider details such as how pockets will lie, how to ensure the best and most comfortable closure, or how to reduce the number of components required.  It was the great jazz bassist Charles Mingus who famously said “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.” and it is in pursuit of this creative simplicity that Riz spends the greatest amount of time and effort.

design sketches for men's swim shorts on a table with a tailors tape measure and pencil

Once the cut and silhouette of the short has been perfected, what we essentially have is a blank canvas ready for any amount of colour or print. Our signature prints are our way of giving a quintessentially British twist to something that is typically tropical; taking a theme such as the classic Hawaiian aloha prints but using endangered British wildflowers or seaweeds native to our coastal waters. By incorporating themes of endangered fish, flowers or insects we hope to be able to foster an awareness for the plight of these species and inspire an appreciation for the natural world around us. We work with a small, talented, collective of artists and illustrators to produce our prints, working around a yearly theme that could range from an aesthetic inspiration to an environmental issue.

men's swimwear designer riz smith inspecting fabric samples for a new season's range

When we have settled upon a new series of print designs we send some of our 100% recycled polyester, chalk coloured, fabric to our printers in Macclesfield and they digitally print a number of different swatches and samples for us in various different colour-ways. When we have these back in front of us at Sunny Cove Studios we lay them all out and discuss the different colour options or combinations. This is when our print designs come to life, and it’s possible to drape a fabric sample across a leg or lay two prints next to each other to see how they work together, for a contrasting internal waistband, for instance. From here, final decisions are made regarding the fine details such as the colour of thread that will be used on the seams, and Riz then makes the final call on which prints, and in which colours, each of the short styles will be produced in. 

men's swimwear designer riz smith laying different fabric prints and colours next to each other during the design process in his london studio

Next up: We send rolls of 100% recycled polyester up to our printers in Macclesfield, but you’ll have to wait for the next instalment of The Process to see what happens there.     





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