The fashion industry is becoming increasing attractive to rugby players who want to diversify into some off-thepitch business ventures before they hang up their boots.
While a few have gone into the food and pub business, fashion is now a popular pastime for the sporting gladiators.
Ireland and Connacht player Mike McCarthy hopes to button up the shirt market with the Garbeau business, which he co-owns with his girlfriend Jessica McLean. “She had to come up with an end-of-year project and got the idea because a lot of rugby guys cannot get shirts to fit them,” explains the 6ft 3” player who is now in his seventh season with Connacht.
Garbeau made-to-measure shirts for men and women come in a variety of fabrics, threads, buttons and collars and can fit in with any theme. Initials can be embroidered onto the cuffs and for special occasions a message can be embroidered inside the collar.
A qualified personal trainer, 30-yearold Mike acknowledges that you have to start making plans for life after rugby and he praises the IRUPA who, he says, “have been fantastic with mentoring schemes and advice for where you want to go after rugby.”
Meanwhile, rugby heart throb Tommy Bowe intends going into ladies shoes – but Christian Louboutin has nothing to fear. The Ireland and Lions player hasn’t set his cap at invading the vertiginous heels and glamorous stilettos market but instead will concentrate on introducing six casual canvas ladies shoes next February. It is 18 months since Tommy dipped his toe into the footwear sector with a celebrity men’s shoe collection for the Irish brand Lloyd&Pryce, now sold in 90 independent retailers around the country.
Tommy (28) from Emyvale signed up with Buddha Brand Industries of Castleblaney in his native Co Monaghan. The Ireland number 14 named 12 styles of men’s boots and shoes after Irish rugby superstars: there is the O’Driscoll, the Wood, the McBride and, of course, the Bowe.
In a new move last month, Tommy expanded his brand into children’s shoes, with scaled-down versions of his men’s shoes and boots priced at €49.99-€59.99. “We have brought our most popular gent’s styles down into children’s sizes and now every boy can be like there dad,” says Tommy. “And I’ve been working on extending the Lloyd&Pryce brand by creating a fresh ladies footwear collection. We will be launching it in stores next spring.”
Bowe follows in the footsteps of international sporting legends who have successfully transferred the currency of their celebrity status into the sphere of footwear.
Former tennis great Bjorn Borg has one of the biggest range of men’s casual shoes in Europe and has also added his name to a line of underpants, swimwear and bags.
Meanwhile, Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff, the current manager of Catalan, is behind the Cruyff Classics shoe range and is launching a clothing line in December.
It can only be a matter of time before Bowe follows suit and introdues a clothing line. Watch this space!
This feature orginally appeared in Lineout Magazine.