The chief executive of Eden Park tells Marie Davies how his exploits on the rugby field led to the creation of a fashion brand.
You used to play for the French international rugby team. What led to the launch of Eden Park?
Myself and four of my French teammates made a nickname for ourselves, the ‘Showbiz Five’. Back in the 1980s and 1990s we were serious about our game but we liked doing things with a sense of humour. To celebrate reaching the finals of the Rugby World Cup in 1987 we wore pink bow ties during the match and it became so well publicised that the pink bow tie became associated with us. We understood this could translate into a logo and instead of destroying T-shirts [on the rugby pitch], we thought why not make them? Myself and French teammate Eric Blanc launched Eden Park in 1987.
How much of a leap was it for you to move from sport to design?
Previous to my rugby career I studied architecture at university. There are lots of design similarities between [architectural] design and fashion. Detail is fundamental - that’s the secret of this job. I’m always drawing and thinking about things creatively.
Where did the Eden Park name come from?
Eden Park is the name of New Zealand’s largest rugby stadium and it’s where we wore the now infamous bow ties, so we thought it would be fitting to name the brand after something synonymous with rugby.
Eden Park has secured a six-year contract to supply the England rugby team with formalwear. What’s it like dressing such big guys?
We had to work very hard on all aspects of the fit because of their size and broad necks. It was about showing them off to their best. Not being from a fashion background I’m becoming increasingly aware of the importance of fit.
Although Eden Park was founded in France, there are hints at British culture within the brand’s DNA, such as the English country club range. How does the UK fit into Eden Park’s plans?
Rugby originated in England and for many people it’s a way of life. The association with the English rugby team is a perfect way to help grow the brand in the UK.
I want to improve the position of Eden Park to a high-level casualwear brand over here. We’re not expecting to be high fashion but fashion is about having fantastic classics and we are sitting on a great story to tell.
What other brands do you admire?
In terms of marketing I must mention Ralph Lauren. It has translated the brand so well on a global scale.
When are you at your happiest?
Flying a Cessna 182 at 2,000ft.
What was your greatest sporting achievement?
Walking out at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995. The atmosphere was something other than sport.
What has been your greatest fashion achievement so far?
Securing the contract for the England rugby team.
Franck Mesnel is chief executive of premium rugby clothing brand Eden Park