The introduction of the Robie changing towel added a touch of luxury to the car park changing experience. With the launch of the Robie Pro and the Robie Pro Max, we chat with Martyn Tarplee, the brains behind the Robie to ask if it's more than just an expensive towel.
Tell us a little bit about how you started with Robie? Who came up with the idea?
Robie Robes was established in November 2007. One freezing cold November day after surfing at my local spot in St Ives, I was asked by my wife Tamsin what I would like from Santa Clause. Easy, I said, a changing robe. After the normal search on the internet, it soon became apparent that there was no such thing as a changing robe on the European market. The result was that we would make my own hooded changing robe on the kitchen table at home. It was not the best sewn product as my sewing skills are nil, but it would do the job and keep me warm whilst changing. After wearing my new piece of kit through the rest of November, it soon became obvious that we could sell these new hooded changing robes as surfers were coming up asking where I had got the robe. So without too much investigation, we ordered 3000 changing robes. Mad I know, but to our surprise they arrived just in time for Christmas.
Some people have said it's just a really expensive towel but when your next to them in a Robie and the winds howling, they soon go quiet.
Our first ever venture into the public eye was the Truro Christmas market, selling beach changing robes on a freezing cold December night. Although lots of people thought we were mad, lots of people thought they were a brilliant idea and would make perfect gifts to keep family and friends warm and away we went. Robie robes was go.
Briefly, it has sprouted a million imitations, is that irritating or flattering?
The fact that Robies have been imitated just shows us what a great idea it was. It gives our brand real strength knowing we were the first.
What's new with the range?
The new range comprises of the Robie Pro, a super light weight micro fibre towelling with a waterproof pack away hood system; and the Robie Pro Max, a lightweight 100% waterproof, windproof double layer outer and micro-fibre inner lining. Currently the lightest waterproof changing robe in the world.
The fact that Robies have been imitated just shows us what a great idea it was.
Why make this new product?
Development is a natural process and that's no different with Robie robes. The two new products have been in development for two years working with some of the UK's top athletes. People's needs change and we need to change with them.
If someone says to you it's just a really expensive towel, what do you say to change their mind?
Some people have said it's just a really expensive towel but when your next to them in a Robie and the winds howling, they soon go quiet. We pay several hundred pounds for a wetsuit, so why have a cheap towel?
Has anyone ever bought a Robie and gone back to towels? As fully sold up users, it's hard to imagine that happening.
I have never met anyone that has gone back to a towel. However, I have met plenty of people that have gone back home because they forgot their Robie.
Where's the product manufactured?
Manufacturing is in Turkey as they are well known for their amazing cotton.
I have met plenty of people that have gone back home because they forgot their Robie.
What challenges has the business faced?
I guess the biggest challenges so far have been the number of imitations on the market riding on the back of our famous quality and success. The challenge of setting up distribution centres in other parts of the world to fulfil the demand for the product.
What does the future look like for Robie?
The future for Robies is looking great. With the launch of our two new products, we are confident we can remain market leaders in the world of changing robes. Having spent the last few years between Cornwall and Australia we are now fully settled in Cornwall and ready to help develop Robie robes further and British surfing as much as possible.
For more information and to buy your own, head over to the Magicseaweed Store.