“It’s not a concept if it’s a lifestyle.” For Spencer Antle (right), founder and creative director of Island Company, that isn’t so much a motto as it is a fact. Antle, the creative muscle behind the clothing/lifestyle brand, lives the vibe Island Company instills: exotic, airy, liberated.
For 10 years, Island Company has been steeped in Caribbean colors, bold Polynesian patterns and the light airiness of Arabian linen. The clothing line is more lifestyle, imbuing a sense of worldliness, a well-traveled casualness only achievable through a three-week jaunt on a single carry-on. It’s the way Antle lives his life, and it's carried through to the brand's lines, each designed in-house, from the patterns on the fabric, to the cut of the jib. It’s a process inspired through life and the functionality of being casually comfortable.
Island Company, now rooted in five locations, including the flagship on Worth Avenue that opened in early 2013, all started from a single bikini. On the eve of a Caribbean holiday, Antle's then-girlfriend could not find a suitable bikini. On a lark, Antle, who was working as a television commercial director and screenplay writer, got down to business and designed a few on spec. What came from this impromptu design session was Island Company’s first line of 13 bikinis. Things took off, and with a bit of hard work, the brand has evolved into a lifestyle, selling the ideal Antle sought in his tropical travels through T-shirts, tumblers and key chains. The “Quit Your Job | Buy a Ticket | Get a Tan | Fall in Love | Never Return” mantra was never about the clothes but the experience.
“We’re selling escapism,” Antle says over cocktails, which speaks to another point of the Island Company experience: a different philosophy on retail.
“There is not really a lot of experience in retail,” Antle says. “When you walk into a place, it’s like, 'Everything is on sale. Buy this.' Here, it’s, 'Come in and hang out. Don’t worry about buying anything.' But customers do anyway.”
Island Company has grown since those first years. Antle's past experiences as a director, pilot, screenplay writer and world traveler all play a part in the direction of the brand, and his current gig is as creative director. He spends his free time now as a music producer and an advertising consultant. Island Company has branched out as well, growing from a swimsuit line to include a women’s resort collection, a men’s collection, a line of eyewear designed completely in-house and handcrafted in Italy, a collection of beach accessories, flip-flops and even a line of sun-care products, because Antle was “sick of Hawaiian Tropic, so we made our own.” But Antle and crew are the last to rest on their laurels. Island Company is in a state of constant expansion, almost to a point of exhaustion.
“We are growing so fast, we’re just trying to figure out how to make it happen,” Antle says.
He's also working on a rum recipe, looking to broaden the beauty/bath line beyond sun care and eyeing an expanded run of eyewear—all of this on top of the latest fashion collection expected to hit stores in October.
“It's just a constant state of doing,” Antle says. “I am definitely on my own path here, not trying to compete with anyone, just trying to get [things] done.”
Following is our conversation with Antle on what’s next.
What was the direction of the latest collection?
I wanted it to be a little more airy, free and light. Kind of easy. I guess that’s where my head wants to be right now—and probably everyone else’s, too. ... Going into this year, everyone is trying to figure out, color-wise, how to relax. So something softer, lighter and airy in terms of color and fabric.
What about inspiration?
I’m not traveling that much for fun, so the inspiration is just guttural, coming out of instinct: What [am I] feeling like? What’s going on?
Before I was doing this, I was writing screenplays about the Caribbean and about the people going to the tropics, existing in that mind-set. [The inspiration for Island Company] is not a trait or a gimmick. It's not a concept. It’s my personality.
[Design inspiration] was always about exotic locales, exotic people and interesting stuff. So some of it comes from whatever interests me at that moment. It’s not like it's going to be some "Great Gatsby" theme this year or any of that. It can literally be: I’m tired and need a vacation, so what can that mean? What do I want to see? Light pastels and girls wearing a lot of white. Flowy stuff. That kind of vibe.
More with Antle on Page 2