Sunday 25 February 2018

Long may this fashionable Carrigaline Queen B reign

Brid Ryan has combined her experience of rowing and her love of fashion to allow woman athletes to be comfortable as they perform

Brid Ryan sports a pair of the popular Lizzie Leggings from her Queen B range in Currabinny Woods, Co Cork. Photo: Clare Keogh.
Brid Ryan sports a pair of the popular Lizzie Leggings from her Queen B range in Currabinny Woods, Co Cork. Photo: Clare Keogh.
CMK 13052014 FIT Magazine Irish Independent Brid Ryan, CEO of Queen B Athletics pictured in Currabinny Woods Co Cork Picture:Clare Keogh
CMK 13052014 FIT Magazine Irish Independent Brid Ryan, CEO of Queen B Athletics pictured in Currabinny Woods Co Cork Picture:Clare Keogh
Irish international rower Sanita Puspure
Hurdler Derval O'Rourke is a Queen B fan.
Brid Ryan represented Cork in the 2012 Rose of Tralee
Brid Ryan (right) and Cathy Hennessy with the bronze medals they won representing Ireland at the 2002 Coupe de la Jeunesse Regatta in Portugal.

Alison O'Riordan

A sports addict who loves the outdoors, Brid Ryan spent most of her early life in a swimming pool, on a horse or lakes in rowing boats.

The 29-year-old keen sportswoman from Carrigaline in Cork tried out a whole range of sports before rowing caught her imagination.

"As one of four we were always doing something, and as the youngest I was determined to keep up with my older siblings. I didn't care what the sport was, as long as I was running around I was happy," she says.

"Whilst none of my family got bitten by the competitive bug as much as I did, most of us are still playing sport to some degree today. My brother plays rugby, my other brother sails and my sister is still pretty mean with a table tennis bat. While I would enthusiastically watch two flies climb a wall if I thought they were racing."

Brid soon honed all that excess energy into becoming a competitive rower, nurtured one day while walking around the marina in Cork with her parents.

"I saw some girls out rowing and I just thought it looked like so much fun. That image stayed with me until I went to secondary school at the Ursuline Convent Blackrock where I made friends with a few rowers who enticed me to join Cork Boat Club.

"Little did I know that what looked serene and so much fun took a lot of sweat, practice and early mornings to achieve."

Brid trained nearly every day in preparation for the various Heads of the Rivers and Regattas around Ireland.

"When school broke for summer we would train twice a day in preparation for the National Championships and Irish trials. Looking back, our coaches deserve medals for how hard they worked with us," she says.

In 2002 herself and fellow rower Cathy Hennessy were successful in making the Irish Team for the Coupe de la Jeunesse Regatta in Portugal, a two-day international event rowed over 2,000m every year, where they went on to win a bronze medal.

"Wearing a green jersey was one of the proudest moments of my life and was truly worth all of the hard work. We had trained so hard and our coach Alf Young gave us an enormous amount of his free time to get us to move the boat fast enough to do it. It felt incredible to represent our country in the sport we lived and breathed.

"When we won a bronze medal it was a proud moment. We rowed our hearts out and missed out on silver by a fraction of a second."

While studying for a BA in Media Arts at DIT and following on with a Masters in Public Relations, Brid spent some of her time rowing with Commercial Rowing Club in Islandbridge.

The club has over 150 years of experience producing success both in the National and International field of men and women's rowing.

"Rowing is hard work and there are days you would rather do anything than go to training, but every now and then you will have a row that makes you feel like you are flying over the water," she says.

"I think everyone should at least give it a go. It is a sport that requires you to really commit, but that in itself creates a real sense of community around the club and you never do know where a sport will take you."

All this time, Brid had been on a quest for more attractive sports gear to wear while training. The young entrepreneur always wanted to look feminine no matter how hard she was training and dreamed of creating a collection of kit for female athletes.

It seemed a no brainer then to successfully mix this love of sport and fashion.

"I think the idea has been coming for a while. I love sport so much and equally I love clothes. I always like to feel good in my clothes while looking good at the same time.

"The idea hit me a few years ago when I was in the gym. I just thought it would be cool to make sport specific kit just for women that is designed for their bodies, their sport but also looks really cool and feminine."

Thus Queen B Athletics was born in September 2013, a range of high-tech but fashionable sportswear which now sells online and through retail stores in Ireland.

"There is some really nice sportswear out there but I wanted to tackle the kit that is worn while playing specific sports and offer something new in terms of design for a woman's body as well as how the garment looks.

"The Queen B style is individual and offers an aesthetic that is unique to our brand. We started with the rowing one-piece because that is what I know and I know exactly how I'd like it to look, feel and work."

The one-pieces are selling well and Brid recently kitted out an entire school team for the Irish Schools Championships.

"In this instance we took one of our rowing suit designs and tailored it for the school crew. It was a fantastic experience working with the school. We got the chance to meet young, talented ladies who took it upon themselves to contact us and develop their school one-piece with us," Ryan says.

While the sports specific brand also offers a kit for rowers, leggings are on sale which can be used for most activities.

"Our first collection, which includes our leggings, was designed with rowers in mind.

"For example our Lizzie Leggings came about when a rower with fabulously long legs asked us to do extra long leggings, she asked so nicely, we couldn't possibly refuse – our only condition being, that we call the leggings after her.

"The fabric we used for the Lizzie's is warm, stretchy, comfortable like a second skin, magically flattering, gives maximum opacity, has excellent moisture management and offers UV protection.

"It's all vital to a rower who will spend every weekend in the winter on the river. Believe me, It's a lot easier to get down to the boathouse on a freezing January morning when you're wearing some gorgeous kit," says Brid.

However it soon became apparent that the Lizzie Leggings were loved by yogis, runners, walkers, hockey players, golfers, tennis players and when requests for a shorter length came in, Queen B responded in style and now offer three leg lengths in long, regular and shorter.

"The nature of our leggings functionality, design and fabric choice means that they are perfect for yoga. We are stocked in the amazing Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre in Cork City centre and this partnership is going so well. We cannot wait to introduce more products that will be useful to our Queen B's in the Yoga community."

Testing the kit on high performing athletes before launch was imperative in the process.

"We wanted to make sure that the functionality of each garment met the athletes of that sport's requirement," Brid explains.

"We also tested quite a selection of styles and chose to launch the most popular ones, the ones that people were excited about.

"We will continue to test our garments before launch to ensure continued quality of product."

Despite the hard graft, the former Cork Rose has not deserted sport for the business and still finds time to row and play hockey.

"I will always play sport, always. It is in my opinion one of the purest human endeavours where effort, tenacity and determination wins.

"These days I would say my rowing is more social than competitive, but I still love it and like to get out in a boat when I can.

I also love to run and swim to keep fit but my most recent sporting obsession is hockey. I used to play in goal in school but not very seriously," Brid says.

"I returned to it two years ago when I joined Blackrock Hockey and can't play enough.

"It is a great way to blow off steam at the end of the day and forget about the stresses of work – you really can't be distracted when those hard little hockey balls are flying towards you, even with pads on it can still hurt."

The home grown company has a goal to be an international women's sports brand one day but at the moment Queen B Athletics are finding the response in Ireland and the UK to be really encouraging and get the occasion sell in the US, Australia, Europe and Canada.

"We have made sales all over the world and there's no point in denying it, when an international order comes in, we do a happy dance all over the office, you should see it, it's glorious."

So who exactly is Queen B and what is she made of?

"She is strong, she is brave, she is kind, she is fun, she trains hard, she loves to sweat, she loves her team mates and above all...she rules. She's a Queen B.

"Many think we used the B because of my name but it is probably worth pointing out that my mum's name also begins with a B. She is a pretty formidable and inspiring lady. I think it is up for debate who or what the B represents."

Latvian and Irish professional rower Sanita Puspure and Irish sprints hurdle athlete Derval O'Rourke also wear the sport-specific wear which has been designed for comfort style and maximum performance and stands out with its neon coloured waistband.

"I think when you start a business you have a wish list – such as first sale. Then first sale to someone I am not related to. Then the first time you see someone walking down the street in your kit which goes onto the first time you see it stocked in a retailer. Then the first time one of your heroes wears your stuff, and then to have two of them, it's quite a big deal."

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