“Quit your job, buy a ticket, get a tan, fall in love, never return.” So reads the Island Company credo emblazoned on countless T-shirts, tanks, wine bags, beach sheets, and iPhone cases. Spencer Antle, the founder and creative director of the West Palm Beach–based clothing line, embodies this philosophy with one important exception: He worked really, really hard to launch his business.
“It’s kind of like climbing Mount Everest. I am happy I did it, but I sure as hell would not go through it again,” Antle says. “Balance is a tricky thing when you have a company moving as fast as us. We have to remember ourselves first and try to sneak some fun into all this ‘work fun’ we are having.”
A devoted island hopper and award-wining commercial director, Antle started Island Company in 2002 when he designed a few bikinis for his then-girlfriend to wear on a Caribbean getaway. That line of 13 suits has since evolved into a popular lifestyle brand of men and women’s apparel and accessories sold in storefronts throughout the country, including a playful outpost on Worth Avenue. PBI.com spoke with Antle about his inspirations, his work habits, and his favorite things.
PBI.com: What are some of your guiding philosophies when designing clothing for Island Company?
Antle: Island Company is designed for clean, classic style and pure comfort. It’s really strange at Island Company because our demographic age ranges from 20-70, so when I’m designing pieces I consider that entire range of ages as well as the idea that things need to be versatile—something you can wear to the beach or out at night. Within that dependable aesthetic is where Island Company finds its popularity.
How has South Florida and Palm Beach influenced the Island Company aesthetic?
I think we are one of the few resort wear companies of our size in America that is actually on the water. Our Worth Avenue store is 100 yards from the beach, and our studio in West Palm is 100 yards from the water too. I think just being in the sunshine and the warmth infuses us with happiness about being here [and] that translates into the clothes and the way we design our products and our stores. This, in turn, I believe makes us “authentic” and hopefully it shows in our work.
You’re very involved in many aspects of the company, from designing clothing to shooting ad campaigns. Why is it important to you to be involved in every step of the process?
Because I love it! Do you think I would do all this work if I didn’t enjoy it? It’s a tremendous load for one person but I have an amazing cast of characters who work at Island Company [and] who have grown up to be incredible contributors themselves. I would probably be hospitalized if I didn’t have their help. Besides, I’m not paying somebody good money to shoot models on the beach—sorry pal, that’s my job.
|Antle behind the camera|
What portion of that process do you most enjoy?
I probably enjoy shooting the most. Definitely film over stills because it’s actually when I get to see it all come to life. It may be because I’m still a film snob but I try to inject cinema into everything we do.
What kind of experience are you trying to create in the Island Company stores?
I want you to step off the sidewalk and feel like you’ve been transported someplace. Sometimes I think some of our stores are so exotic that it freaks out the average shopper. I can’t tell you how many times people have walked in and said, “Oh my God, what is this? This is a great concept.” And I’ve said, “This isn’t a concept, this is my life.” At the end of the day, the experience in the stores, each piece is a little bit or some effect from my life in the islands. All I know how to do is be authentic.
|Island Company, Worth Avenue. Photo by Spencer Antle|
What’s your favorite island to visit and why?
The answer is always the same: St. Barts. It just has the most going on. It’s cool as hell. It’s damn near perfect. There is too much to say about it so I’ll just leave it at that.
What are your daily wardrobe staples?
Well, every once and a while I wear a red hat. It’s actually a Mount Gay Rum Sailing Team crew hat. It’s a long story how I got my first one—and I never actually sailed in one of the races—but I wore my first hat for so long when I was 27 starting my directing career in Los Angeles that it became this trademark, and people started giving me hats. So I haven’t not worn one since 1997, and I probably have 40-50 of them that are still brand new as far back as 1988. Nowadays, I just turn the hats away when someone tries to give them to me because I have so many. Other than that, it’s ripped jeans, ripped-up shoes, and a T-shirt that would probably be lucky if it didn’t have a hole in it.
What’s your most prized possession?
I just bought the company a 1985 Rybovich boat and it’s become our baby, although we have been working too much to enjoy it as much as we should. But at the end of the day, it really can’t beat my little green dirt bike, a Kawasaki 250 Enduro that the girls I work with nicknamed Kermmy. I just try to get on that little piece of joy as much as possible.
What’s your favorite way to spend your down time?
Literally sleeping on the beach. I just came back from the Cayman Islands where we have a store, and I love being tan and I love being in the salt water for so long. It’s cliché being the owner of a resort wear company, but I swear to God, put me on one of our beach sheets with powder-white sand and water so clear you can see from your neck to your toes perfectly and I will be snoozing in minutes.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
Not necessarily in this order: dive bum, fighter pilot, gun runner, film director—and I’m starting to like this whole record producing thing. The Navy Seal I work with says I would have made it into the Seals because I am so stubborn I probably would have never quit. I say, there’s no way in hell because I am literally in a wet suit if it goes below 84 degrees in the water. I am what us dive instructors call a warm wuss.
What does your ideal beach day consist of?
Tanning, period. And maybe a cocktail or two. I’m not too needy.