“Robbie is a ray of sunshine. I have known her for years and she always works from the positive.”
T (yes, just T), manager of the rooftop club, The Standard Downtown, Los Angeles.
lthough raised in inland Bakersfield, California, Robbie French was always a girl who liked the water. From waterskiing & wakeboarding on beautiful Bass Lake, Robbie moved on to surfing when she inadvertently rented a house in college that sat in front of one of the best surf breaks in the world.
From this house full of girls on Rincon Beach, Robbie found that what was initially a way to meet boys, became a monumental discovery of a sport that would guide the direction of her life from that first summer on. At the age of 20, Robbie and another friend grabbed their boards and headed off to hit the big waves in the South Pacific.
After being completely humbled facing life threatening experiences from Mother Nature’s powerful waves of Indonesia, Robbie found out she had much to learn. This self-taught surfer was learning a lesson that would resurface years later in the founding of Perfect Day Surf Camps.
But, before Robbie found her way to her dream career of owning a surf camp and becoming one of the trend leaders in handcrafted belt designs, she was a model and actress in Los Angeles for many years after college. When she tired of modeling, Robbie was offered a job opening inthe legendary Hollywood Skybar and from there helped manage some of the best-known bars and clubs in LA. When Rande Gerber, owner of Skybar and many other bars, sent her to New York to open yet another club, she realized that she had to be closer to the ocean and moved back home.
Back into bar management, she opened the Standard Downtown where “T” still remembers her fondly (hence his quote above). She says today that the bar management business was like getting her MBA…she learned everything she knows about business from these hip clubs that are really successful ventures.
In 2002, Robbie’s hobby was designing jewelry and belts for herself and friends and, upon seeing a television show on style where belts, similar to the ones she was making, were selling for over $300, Robbie was compelled to take her belt design a few steps further. She started to sell them in the boutiques of the hotels where she worked, styled many celebrities and built a following, soon inspiring her to take a chance of leaving the hotel/bar business to start her own design company.
From her beginnings working out of a studio apartment in Venice making all of her own belts, Robbie now commissions an Italian family business to do all of her metal work and equally skilled craftsmen to do her leather tooling. Robbie French Designs are now found in 600 retail stores and boutiques world wide and outfit many A-list celebrities like Nicholas Cage, Madonna, Tommy Lee, Dave Navarro and more.
Although enjoying the success and challenge of Robbie French Designs, Robbie wanted to do something that made surfing not just a weekend sport. One day, over lunch with Bob McKnight, CEO of Quiksilver and Roxy, Robbie expressed her love for surfing and Bob proposed the idea of opening up a surf camp in Los Angeles that Quiksilver and Roxy would sponsor. Jumping all over that offer, Robbie created yet another successful company, Perfect Day Surf Camps.
Remembering the many precarious situations when learning to surf, Robbie wanted an organization that was not only fun, but also educational. She saw an opportunity to educate children on water safety and the prevention of environmental degradation. Her instructors are all CPR-certified and come from backgrounds of life guarding and professional surfing.
In her seventh year of being a successful entrepreneur, Robbie felt there was still something missing. She wanted a purpose. She wanted to give back…. give something to children that have lives of burden by giving them a few “perfect days” at the ocean. In 2007, she began to organize several non-profit surf camp events for children whose families could not afford days at the beach and handicapped or autistic kids that need that much more time and care getting on a surfboard. She soon hopes to teach blind children who have possibly never even seen the ocean. To this end, Robbie is launching a line of belts that reflect her passion for surfing by heralding those early discovery days of surf in vintage belt buckle designs. Proceeds from this collection will go toward future non-profit events and donations to her chosen charity.
With her belt business booming and her Perfect Day Surf Camps teaching hundreds of children how to surf each summer, Robbie’s creative wheels keep on turning. She recently launched vintage inspired hang bags and a line of dog collars and leashes that actually match the belts of their owners. Just another passion…animals, and they now have a Robbie French design line of their own.
Robbie French truly has found a way to engage all of her passions in both her business and personal life. And she manages all of this with a giving heart and time for everyone. As her businesses flourish and popularity of her designs expand rapidly, her ultimate goal is to create that “perfect day” in the memories of children everywhere.