At that time, the prevailing swimwear style was briefs (or Speedos, as they’ve become known), which Prysquel wasn’t quite comfortable with — as an alternative, he recalled the longer swim shorts that he saw surfers wearing in California, and decided to make a pair for himself.
“But what happened on the side was that people said, ‘oh, I love your shorts. Where did you buy them?’ And he said, ‘I did it myself,’” says Herlory. With enough requests (and the help of some friends with stitching machines), Prysquel started to make swim shorts for others with colorful fabrics he’d brought back from Africa (and of course, these vibrant patterns and hues are a cornerstone of the brand to this day). Coincidentally, the woman he was in love with owned a store, where they decided to sell the swimsuits.
The final piece of the equation was choosing a name. Inspired by his love of cars, “he called it Vilebrequin, because it means crankshaft in [French], which is a central part of the engine,” says Herlory. The woman’s store also featured a spiral staircase that resembled the part from afar. “It was the worst marketing word you can imagine — nobody knows how to pronounce [it],” laughs Herlory. “But he didn’t think about making an international business.”
Of course, this business endured, and so did his romance. “[It was all] just to spend a whole day at the beach feeling comfortable to seduce this lady,” says Herlory. “But he did, and he married her, they had kids, they spent their whole life together.”
Prysquel still lives on St. Tropez, and Herlory travels to the town to have lunch with him each summer to honor Vilebrequin’s origins, and how far it’s come since. Prysquel himself kept the company for 10 years, but even as it has evolved, “he was the inspiration, the DNA of the brand. It comes from him,” says Herlory.