What do you do if you’re supposedly the devil incarnate and heir to an estimated £10 billion fortune? Create an adventure brand, as done by David de Rothschild. I recently had the chance to quiz the explorer, entrepreneur and member of the richest family of all time as he showcased his adventure-focused outerwear brand ‘The Lost Explorer’ at esteemed saddle manufacturer Brooks London’s Covent Garden store.
So what links thoroughly modern, adventure-proof outerwear and an old-school saddle manufacturer? “Style and function”, says David. “They perform and you pay for it, but you feel comfortable paying for it because you are getting what you want from it. That’s the case with Brooks, and I hope it’s the same with The Lost Explorer.”
When it comes to cycling, David fits into the pannier-and-sightseeing brand of rider – with a bottle of his own-brand tequila lodged in a bottle cage, no doubt. “There’s something about being on a bike – finding your flow, with your mates, chatting, everything’s moving, everything’s changing on the road.I’m a bit more of an oh, I’ll go down this street, I’ll cut through here, I’ll explore more type of rider.”
It’s this active, outdoors lifestyle that has led David to take a keen interest in the current and future state of the environment. In 2010 he sailed Plastiki, a 60-foot catamaran made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled waste products, across the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for plastic pollution.
With the election of Trump and other right-leaning parties, does he think environmental policy is going to be put on the back burner?
“Yeah, I mean, It’s a really very poignant question. I think it comes much more around our ability to take the path of least resistance is far greater than one of struggle, right?
“We need to make the right choices, to live on a planet in a more sustainable, harmonious way with nature you need to make some really tough calls. And to do things that we are not going to feel comfortable about, myself included.
“Humanity is Evil Knievel. We got all dressed up, went on our motorbike and hit the ramp – which was the industrial revolution – and off we flew. It’s great, look we’re in the air and now we’re at that point where we’re like shit, maybe that was too good a takeoff, maybe we’re consuming too much, maybe we aren’t actually going to hit the landing ground as we first anticipated. It’s not all smooth sailing, so the question is: are we going to break a neck or are we going to break a leg? We’re in mid-air. We’ve got to adjust.
While tough decisions need to be made in the future, no self-respecting billionaire heir would ever be seen without a watch fit for royalty – impending doom or not. Aboard Plastiki, David wore a special edition IWC Ingenieur Automatic Mission Earth Edition Chronograph.
As with Brooks, it was the skill, precision and passion of the Swiss watchmaker that convinced him they were the right partner. “The thing that I really liked is the craftsmanship,” he said. “People that know IWC, they love it, they live it, they know all the different models. I guess in a way it’s a bit like that with Brooks. You’re really into it and you collect the saddles, you love the different styles and you appreciate the craftsmanship.
“I’d rather work with brands where there’s a real niche audience, that really love the brand and are really passionate, because then, when you’re doing a collaboration, like we did around Plastiki, with the watches, you’ve got someone who’s not just wearing a watch, they’re living your message.
“They know everything, every single detail. That’s a really interesting ambassador, and some of the influence behind starting my own brand. It was that thing of trying to create a sense of real value in products, but also to appeal to people who really want to dig deep into the materials and subtleties and into the craftmanship, too.
While David may be firmly aware of his impact on Earth, his position as a Rothschild has ensured that whatever he does, he’s subject to some interesting (intergalactic) scrutiny. One of the wilder theories circulating online is that he’s actually the second coming, or an alien force. There’s an entire community dedicated to unearthing his hidden reasons for being – so, if he really is an otherworldly being, I had to ask where he’d travel in his spaceship.
“I would just go to the bottom of our ocean,” he said. “Live underneath there. There’s a nice conspiracy. I’d become a Merman. I think our oceans are incredible and under-explored – we know so little about them.”