Richard Jarman is the Sydney-based surfer and economist-turned-designer whose men’s resort and swimwear brand Commas is (yes I’m gonna say it) making waves. It’s been worn by big deals Chris Hemsworth, Jordan Barrett, and Luke Evans on the covers of big deal magazines such as Vogue and Esquire (GQ also called it ‘Steve Lacy’s favourite brand’!); it was the first swimwear label EVER to represent Australia at the Italian fashion festival Pitti Uomo, and it’s also the most expensive swimwear available via online retail behemoth Matches Fashion (because everything’s made from very fancy fabrics from Italy and Japan). What’s his secret? Is it a not-so-secret genuine passion for his beachside lifestyle and the fashions that go with it? Or is it something way more sinister, something dark and scary that would shock you to your core… (Tbh it’s a genuine passion for his beachside lifestyle and the fashions that go with it.)
There’s a sunrise in Commas’ Instagram stories every day. Are you just filming the same sunrise from different angles every now and then to use throughout the month?
No! My wife Em and I swim at Bronte ocean pool every morning at first light and it really revitalises us and sets the tone for the day. I gotta say, we’re pretty lucky to have that available to us in Sydney.
Did you grow up in the surf?
I did! Most of my childhood I grew up surfing a place nicknamed ‘Sandshoes’, around the corner from my parents’ place. It’s a friendly-looking wave that starts at the edge of an ocean pool. I still go there a lot, and it frequently features on Commas’ Instagram. It’s always had the most amazing energy and community around it. Each morning at sunrise there are a bunch of elderly men and women who swim in the ocean pool and you can hear them laughing, singing and splashing around as you walk down the street. They always have the biggest smiles on their faces and seem so content. Since I was young I’ve always planned to be doing the same thing at their age.
You’re always using crazy water-side locations in your campaigns. How do you find them?
I’m always on the hunt for new places of cultural and aesthetic significance. We’ve shot at Piscine Molitor in Paris where the first bikini was unveiled in 1946, an abandoned limestone quarry, the Northern beaches outside of Sydney, and this great little bathhouse called Gillian Adams (really recommend you checking it out — it’s amazing). The photographers and stylists I work with are probably starting to dread my location scouting… We’ve hiked kms up mountains in 40 degree heat and once spent pretty much 24 hours driving around to all of these different beaches I’d found, with the team sleeping on and off in the backseat. I tend to get way too excited about extraordinary new locations and tell people before I have had a chance to shoot, so I’m going to have to be a little more tight-lipped!
How would you sum up the Commas aesthetic?
Sophisticated and unrestrained.
Which films have inspired Commas’ aquatic aesthetic?
So many! Film is a love of mine and one of my favourite forms of inspiration. The SS19 collection was inspired by the early scenes of Luc Besson’s 1988 free-diving film, Le Grand Bleu, however for me It’s not always purely the visual. The collection I’m currently working on is again inspired by a period film but I guess it has different layers and it’s heavily influenced by the score and soundtrack.
Are there any Australian icons, dead or alive, that you’d like to see in Commas?
Actor Peter Finch, but I’m not sure if we get to claim him as an Australian.
What makes Commas’ swimwear so special compared to other swimmers?
There’s so many other swimwear brands I love but I feel that Commas has a unique point of difference. The swimwear is not designed to only be worn in the water or to the beach but really to be worn throughout life. Plus, we really do invest in gorgeous fabrics from the finest Italian and Japanese mills.
What’s your favourite piece that Commas offers?
The swim shorts — when I started Commas that’s all I really wanted to make. My mission was to perfect them so that you wouldn’t want to take them off… The rest of the wardrobe we make is really designed to complement the swimwear. Commas aims to one day provide ‘a full menswear wardrobe for holidays and everyday’, but swimwear will always be at the heart of what we do.
Do you think swim briefs are superior to swim shorts?
I don’t think you’ll have heard that from me, but I can’t pretend I’m a not a fan of having an upper thigh tan in summer.
What makes Commas swimwear better than wearing no swimwear?
That’s a question I ask myself every single day.
What business lessons have you learned three years in with Commas?
So many, but by far the most important lesson is that success comes from building the right team and making sure you look after them first. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people whose craft you admire; there is so much to be learned through different disciplines and different walks of life, and starting discussions with different creatives can lead you all sorts of great places.
Do you have a five year plan? What’s in it? Can we steal it?
We have huge goals for Commas however being patient with the right things has proven to be a virtue.