Tommy Bahama Camp Shirt

If your camp shirt were your friend, what kind of friend would he be? In the fantasyland of Tony Margolis, Bob Emfield and Lucio Dalla Gasperina, creators of the Tommy Bahama line of tropics-inspired casual wear, your friend would be footloose, yet well-heeled, a man between 35 and 65, versed in adventure, steeped in leisure and above all mysterious.

According to Dalla Gasperina, that was the vision the three had in mind eight years ago when they invented the namesake Tommy Bahama clothing line, known most familiarly for its camp shirts. Today, the company has morphed into a wider spectrum of clothes and now includes seven restaurants, but the spirit of devil-may-care elegance remains. "The scene is warm trade winds, there's sand between your toes, the beer is cold, and it doesn't get any better than this," say Dalla Gasperina, the company's vice president of design.

Ironically, for all the laid-back ethic, the fun tropical prints and the cut that admits the Tommy Bahama customer is not a 19-year-old hard body anymore, the apparel is very serious stuff. That is, many of the fabrics are of fine silk, linen, linen/silk or tensile and carefully sandwashed before and after construction to give them that lived-in look. The pigments in the dyes are also meticulously formulated to achieve a faded look. Careful details like coconut buttons contribute to this air of insouciance as well. After all, points out Dalla Gasperina, while the Tommy Bahama customer may not be dressing up, he is dressing respectably.

Watch for the Bahama line to keep building with outerwear in washed leathers and sweaters as the firm's one-season (summer) philosophy evolves into a year-round ethic. Says the designer: "We feel it's our mission to just keep building."