Two brothers, 1,000 T-shirts, one mission

Two brothers called off in Luxembourg on Tuesday as part of a round-the-world trip aimed at selling T-shirts in every country while making a documentary about the experience.

The BIRTHDAYSUIT is the graduation project of Dutch graphic design student Maurice Baltissen, who hopes to prove his worth as a graphic designer by getting his brand known globally through hitch-hiking and sofa-surfing around the world.

But, unlike most savvy travellers, Maurice and brother Laurence began their odyssey three weeks ago in Portugal without a tent, sleeping bag or, most importantly, a scrap of clothing on.

Maurice explained the symbolism of the mad-capped gesture: “I came up with the name BIRTHDAYSUIT because when you graduate you are born as a graphic designer. I'm not famous and I have to prove to the world I'm worthy of graduation. You're born with nothing, you're born naked and you have to reach adulthood on your own talent and strengths with the people you know.”

After a sympathetic motorist equipped the brothers with clothing, the two were able to travel, fully clothed, through Portugal, Spain, France, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands to Luxembourg where their hosts took them out on the town on Tuesday night.

On the way they sought out shops in each country to stock some of the 1,000 Birthday Suit T-shirts screen printed by Maurice, which the pair also give away to anyone who helps them or sell to buy food.

Maurice explained that the idea came from his childhood, when his mother gave his old clothes to a collection for children in Africa. “Each time my dad switched on the TV, I thought it would be great to see an African child wearing my T-shirt. That's where the project started,” he said.

Gaining support for the BIRTHDAYSUIT project has not been difficult, it would seem. Thanks to interest from a Dutch TV production firm, the pair's mission has become widely known and they are filming a documentary to be aired in instalments on Dutch TV.

The brothers use social networking websites such as Facebook to find their next bed. They thank people who give them a good contact by making a bespoke BIRTHDAYSUIT logo design based on their portrait. But, even the best social networks have their flaws and often they have to ask strangers in the street for a helping hand.

Laurence said: “The first three or four days we were a little bit afraid asking people for help. Now if we sleep one night on the street, it's OK. The second day of our trip we slept in a warehouse. The guy who took us in didn't want to be filmed. It was a bit frightening, we thought we might be robbed.”

Maurice added: “There's a big contrast between days and people we meet.”

While the current leg of the brothers' trip is due to end in time for Maurice's graduation, the pair will not be hanging up their boots just yet. In six months they plan to begin their second stage, starting in Japan and eventually they plan a third leg in Africa. “I don't know how long it will take us to finish,” said Maurice.

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