My bag

Founder of French menswear label marries sporty gruff with dapper details

Franck Mesnel’s fashion label Eden Park is named after the famous rugby stadium in Auckland, New Zealand.
Franck Mesnel’s fashion label Eden Park is named after the famous rugby stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. ST PHOTOS: FELINE LIM

Former French rugby player Franck Mesnel says the buzz over his team wearing bowties at the 1987 Rugby World Cup final spurred him to set up Eden Park

Dressed in a brown jacket with a mini pastel bow pinned to his collar, former French rugby player Franck Mesnel mixes sporty gruff with dapper details when it comes to both his style and clothing label.

The 55-year-old founder of French fashion label Eden Park - named after the famous rugby stadium in Auckland, New Zealand - says that while the brand draws much inspiration from the rough sport of rugby, it also wants to exude a modern and discreet elegance.

It is this juxtaposition of ruggedness and refined gentility that defines the premium leisure clothing brand, known for its cotton polo shirts and casual sporty blazers.

Mesnel started the label in 1987 while playing for the French rugby team. It includes subtle rugby references and its pink bowtie logo in all its collections.

In Singapore, a flagship outlet opened at Takashimaya department store in November last year.

Speaking to The Straits Times last month when he was here for the launch of the label's spring-summer 2017 collection, Mesnel says the bowtie logo is inspired by a stunt that the French rugby team pulled in 1987.

  • ON HIS BAG

  • It is a good compromise between fashion and practicality. I like that I can put so many things inside, and I ride a scooter in Paris so I have to use a backpack. I like the green and khaki palette too.

"We were playing the Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand's All Blacks at Eden Park. We decided it would be an exceptional day - like a party - so we wore pink bowties."

The mischievous team was already known for courting the press by incorporating quirky items into their wardrobe - they had played matches wearing golden shoes and berets.

But this stunt garnered more media coverage.

Mesnel recalls: "The paradox of big, strong rugby guys wearing feminine pink bowties was funny and unexpected. We got a lot of attention."

So much sohe knew he had to take advantage of the buzz and it occurred to him to start a fashion label.

"So many people try to invent a story for their marketing, but we are fortunate to have our own real origin story with French flair," says the strapping father of two, who is married to a journalist.

"As a rugby player, I know how to destroy the rugby jersey, so it made sense to turn around and create jerseys too."

The label's pieces include cardigans with oval buttons like the shape of a rugby ball, polo shirts with wide colourful stripe designs often seen on rugby jerseys, and dress shirts with elbow patches printed with a pink bowtie pattern.

At the Singapore store, cotton polo shirts are priced from $122 to $191 and casual sport blazers are $574.

Though it started with just a few stores in France, the label celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and today has more than 500 outlets in almost 40 countries.

Mesnel, who retired from rugby in 1995, says he wants to continue expanding the label in Asia. The brand is already available in China and the Philippines. There are plans to launch in Indonesia soon.

"We also want to build our digital presence, expand our recently launched women's range and spread the word about our story," he says . "We are not done yet."


Things in his bag

NOTEBOOK

This is crucial to me so I always have it. I take notes and sketch ideas in it.

LAPTOP

I need this to communicate and to work on. I bring it whenever I travel.

USB DRIVE

This is essential when I travel. I use it to store documents that I need for meetings.

GLASSES

These are transition glasses which are very convenient. I need sunglasses to reflect glare when I ride my scooter. I also think this shape is fashionable and looks good.

BOWTIE PIN

We made this to celebrate the label's 30th anniversary. I carry a few all the time to pass to the people I meet.

MENTOS

It is important to have good breath. It is an obsession for me since I speak to so many people. So I always carry mints.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'Pairing rugby with pink bowties'. Print Edition | Subscribe