THE BROTHERS IN BUCKINGHAM PALACE IN FLIP FLOPS
Published : May 27
Written By : Robert Forkan
Location : LONDON
In July 2014, Gandys co-founders Rob and Paul Forkan were invited to Buckingham Palace by the Queen in recognition of their charity work. Daring to dress in shorts and flip flops, the brothers caught the attention of William and Harry. Now, with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations underway, Paul reflects on his chats with the princes, their enduring mutual respect and why he is such a huge fan of Her Majesty.
We didn’t have the money for advertising – we were sleeping on sofas eating beans on toast when we first started out
‘We rocked up at Buckingham Palace in flip flops’: Gandys co-founder Paul on being starstruck with Prince William – and how tragedy made him fearless.
Before we started Gandys, Rob and I made a deal that we would wear our flip flops to every event.
Our PR campaign was literally the two of us wearing our brand and people asking where we got our flip flops. When the gates opened at Buckingham Palace that day and we walked in wearing them, it felt surreal. After years of seeing the Palace on TV, we felt like we shouldn’t be there; we got especially nervy when we were waiting in the security area.
There we were in our shorts and flip flops and everyone else was suited and dressed up. Joss was in a ballgown!
We looked totally out of place. People came to chat with us because they were intrigued to know, who are these guys? Who dresses like that to visit the Palace? Then Prince Harry came over and said, ‘You’re having a f*cking laugh, aren’t you?’ It was really funny. We joked with him that it had said ‘Summer BBQ’ on the invite. He was like, ‘What? Did it?’ and looked as though he was going to find someone to have a word. Then we told him why we were in flip flops and about our charity work, building Kids’ Campuses to provide education in countries such as Sri Lanka. He was really inspired; we ended up having a good chat.
Prince William asked if we were there to use the swimming pool.
We laughed – it was funny how the brothers had different reactions to our get up. William already knew who we were and what we had been through. Rob and I had lost our parents in Sri Lanka during the 2004 Boxing Day tsumani. I was fifteen when they died, the same age as William when his mum, Princess Diana, was killed. What happened in Sri Lanka motivated us to start Gandys and to create a brand as a force for good and to give back. William was inspired by our work and very encouraging; he told us to keep going and to do what we believe in.
It was amazing to have out efforts recognised by the Royal Family.
Our invite to the Palace was for the Queen’s Young Leader’s Programme, which supports young people around the Commonwealth who are transforming their communities. I’m a huge fan of the Queen – to be in her nineties and still working hard, supporting people and helping those facing tragedy; we couldn’t ask any more from a monarch. Her legacy is incredible. After the tsunami, we were invited to a memorial service she was holding to honour those who had lost their lives, but we didn’t go – we weren’t ready after what we had been through.
Before we met the princes, we kind of stalked them online.
It was eight years ago so we were young and impressionable; we got very excited about stuff. I remember feeling giddy and thinking: What do we do? What do we say? How do we greet them? We wanted to do our research beforehand. We were totally starstruck and in awe of them – we were just a couple of lads from Croydon who went travelling, loved a beer and wanted to give back. Now I’m in my thirties and a dad, I feel different. I’ve met William a few times since the visit to the palace and we have a mutual respect. Like us, he is a massive traveller and has worn his Gandys beanie on various trips. It’s a great feeling that he wears our products proudly.
Prince William talked to us about finding a silver lining after he lost his mum at a young age.
He said he’s managed to find it in having his own family. That’s how I feel. In the eight years since we visited Buckingham Palace, I feel lucky to be working with my brother at Gandys, to have met my partner and had a baby and to be travelling the world. Losing our parents in the tsunami when we were teenagers made us fearless and committed to doing the work we do; we’d tell people we were going to build a Kids’ Campus in Sri Lanka and they didn’t believe us. But we had nothing to lose so we took the risk. Like William and Harry, our parents taught us to give back, and that’s exactly what we are doing.