Wednesday 18 January 2017

Eden Park brings champagne style to Ireland's rugby fashion

Published 09/02/2012 | 05:00

FOR most people, especially rugby fans, turning out for your country at out-half (or in PostScript's case the second row) in a world cup final at Eden Park against the All Blacks would be the pinnacle of your career, if not your life.

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In Franck Mesnel's case, it was the high point of a decorated playing career, but it was also the beginning of greater things in business.

Mr Mesnel won 53 caps over ten years for France in the 1980s and 90s, winning or sharing four Five Nations championships and playing in three Rugby World Cups, including one final.

More importantly for his post-rugby life, however, he spent most of his club career with Racing Club de France in Paris. Racing at the time was a team packed with characters, and renowned for their on-pitch antics.

One of those antics involved taking to the field wearing pink bow ties, and from that prank has spawned a global clothing business headed up by M Mesnel and four of his team mates.

Mr Mesnel's Eden Park brand has exploded since it was set up in the early 90s, and has had particular resonance with the rugby following public. This season the firm became the official formal clothing supplier to the IRFU in a deal that will run to 2016, and have major plans to re-enter the Irish market.

It's just a bit ironic then that when Paul O'Connell et al travel to Paris this weekend, they will have been dressed by a French company. Mr Mesnel takes up the story.

"Obviously our logo, the pink bow tie, comes from rugby so there has been a direct influence from the sport on to our clothing, be it the oval buttons and so on, but Eden Park has moved beyond just the rugby watching public.

"We have expanded into the Middle East and Asia, where rugby interest is at a minimum and many of our styles now do not obviously have the rugby background, although there may be some small touches, such as striped linings of our jackets and so on."

Eden Park had a store in the Powerscourt Centre in Dublin several years ago but on the back of the IRFU deal, is returning to the Irish market with far greater ambition for the country than many other brands now have for Ireland. While he acknowledges the impact of the recession, Mr Mesnel does not fear it.

"When the quality is there, and I think it is with Eden Park, there will always be a market for our goods," he claims.

The label has four independent retailers in Ireland but plans to open a franchise in Dublin next year and double its existing distribution network in time for the autumn/ winter collection in 2013.

According to the firm, the IRFU partnership will be "used to its full potential" through advertising, digital marketing & PR while the exclusive licensed range will be a "key addition" to the campaign.

As well as this, Eden Park have appointed the legendary Ollie Campbell as Irish commercial agent.

Mr Mesnel is quite happy to talk about his clothing venture but he's a little bit more coy about his pick for the RBS Six Nations.

"The winner will be blue or green, I think".

Given the week that's in it, that's a pretty good answer.

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