Gandys: The brothers building orphanages one pair of flip flops at a time

Rob Forkan was 13 years old, and his brother Paul 11, when their parents took them out of school for a family adventure. To expose them to other cultures and teach them the importance of humanitarianism, mum and dad sold the family home in London, packed up the two boys and their younger siblings, ages 9 and 5, and set off to travel the world with no particular time limit or itinerary.

They spent their first year in India, the entire family volunteering for local charities and soaking up the culture, before heading to Sri Lanka. There, they planned a few days rest on the coast before continuing their journey. It was Christmas 2004, and their lives were about to change immeasurably.

The next morning, the Boxing Day tsunami hit their hotel. All four children were saved, but they lost both parents. Deep in grief, without money or passports, they made their way to the international airport 200 kilometers away and got themselves back to London. Rob and Paul finished school, started work and saved up enough money to continue the journey their parents had started.

During their travels, they looked for a way to honour their parents and find something positive in their tragedy. Inspired by their favourite travel footwear and a desire to help children less fortunate than themselves, they came up with the idea for Gandys. With an ‘orphans for orphans’ mission, 10% of profits from every pair of flip flops goes toward building orphanages in developing countries.

Orphans for orphans

gandys brothersThe brothers will soon mark the 10th anniversary of the tsunami by opening, in India, the first orphanage supported by the Gandys Foundation, which also accepts direct donations. They run a clever referral programme, which donates an extra £5 to the foundation if your friend buys a pair. The flip flops are made of a durable, natural and biodegradable rubber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The brand has been built by word of mouth, with the likes of Richard Branson, David Cameron and Princes William and Harry showing support along the way. This summer, they collaborated with British retail icon Liberty, releasing a collection featuring famous Liberty art fabric patterns.

In just a couple of years, the brothers, now in their mid-20s, have gone from working out of a bedroom to selling internationally and in major retailers. As stylish as Havaianas but a damn sight more interesting, these are worth a look as the summer wanes and you start making plans for your winter beach holiday.