Eden Park's iconic pink bowtie has arrived in Egypt for the first time. We met the brand's founder at the Egyptian flagship store opening and we now expect high quality, sophisticated garments with an unusual rugby-inspired - and just the right dosage of 'Le French Flair'.
If you think of all the luxury clothing brands out there, behind the elegance, the timeless style, and often boundary-crossing designs, there is always a distinct air of seriousness. A kind of ‘don’t-touch-me-I’m-expensive’ vibe, which translates to many as somewhat unrelatable. On the other hand, every now and again a luxury brand like Eden Park pops up in Egypt with its charming story and renews our faith in high end fashion. Theirs begins on the rugby pitch when founder Franck Mesnel played in the first Rugby World Cup as part of the French Racing team at New Zealand’s Eden Park stadium. From then on, the team became known for their cheeky exploits on the pitch, and Mesnel began to dream up an elegant, rugby-inspired clothing brand. All of this was inspired by the team’s cheeky yet unmistakably French attention to fashion. While keeping their socks and collars up, they were keen accessorisers, whether this meant wearing Basque berets, blazers, or sporting what has come to be known as Eden Park’s iconic trademark – the pink bowtie.
Franck Mesnel talking to CairoScene
Since its inception in 1987, Eden Park’s pink bowtie has made inroads on six continents, and on the 6th December it finally opened its long-awaited first Egyptian store at CityStars. Considering Egypt has just qualified for the World Cup finals, it’s an exciting time for sports here - even if you don't really like sports at all.
Eden Park's other other Middle Eastern stores, we are told, have done quite well, and when quizzed on the brand’s potential for success, Mensel proudly stated, “Coming to Egypt was part of the brand’s natural progression, and we have strong DNA. We’re not avoiding our roots, and we don’t want to repeat what we’ve already done; this store has a new concept. And if it doesn’t work, you’ll just have this strange bow tie…”
The idea of fusing rugby and elegance is perhaps justifiably met with some confusion. Sweaty men tackling each other to the ground, rolling around in mud, and grappling for a ball doesn’t exactly ooze sophisticated soirees and five-course meals with fifty tiny forks. But actually, the two fuse quite effortlessly in Eden Park’s ready-to-wear rugby shirts, tapered jackets, and cultured materials. While the sport itself may get messy, when you take rugby’s values of education and respect and merge them with French elegance, you get a unique, iconic concept.
They manage to bring elegance to beer – they’re crazy, creative people!
What is Eden Park’s concept of elegance? Mesnel comments on his European stylistic influences, “the Italians really push men as fashionable; it is the only country where you can really see the fashion industry. They prefer nice shoes over eating a sandwich!” In addition, he stresses his great respect for the English. “I have no interest in retaining the traditional Anglo-French animosity – the English clubs have been an enormous influence. They manage to bring elegance to beer – they’re crazy, creative people!” Add to this the French ‘je nais sais quois’, and you have Eden Park. “Sometimes we call it charm; it’s unpredictable.”
But where do rugby values fit in to all this? “The real world is the pitch,” Mesnel tells us, “if you’re shit, and if you’re selfish, you end up in hospital. But the real world is more vicious and its more difficult to adapt, so we must learn.” Eden Park embodies team spirit and Mesnel is clear to state that he welcomes advice from those around him. “In the real world, there’s no room for Jackass – you need good values from the start. The challenge is maintaining the elegance.”
if you’re shit, and if you’re selfish, you end up in hospital.
This spirit is embodied in ‘Les Papillons du Ciel’, Eden Park’s education charity. “I’m crazy about education,” Mesnel states. “With the help of a wonderful local man named Narina, we’ve brought rugby to a school on the island of Saint Marie, just north east of Madagascar.” He explains how the rugby values of hard work, commitment, and discipline have served as motivation for learning.
Indeed, Eden Park is about meeting challenges with style; while acknowledging that things must be done properly – Mesnel is emphatic that only the best quality materials are used, from Peruvian Pima cotton to Japanese nylon – there is always a sense of cheer and playfulness to its designs. This is an attitude that has stuck with Mesnel and the racing team from the beginning, who aside from their quirky fashion accessories, became famous for their stunts. “It was the second final in 1990,” Mesnel relates, “and the score was pretty much even – there was huge pressure. Our adversaries stayed on the pitch at half time, and we switched up our refreshments for some champagne. Honestly, it was very good – it’s like a red bull, it’s very helpful!” On this occasion, the team won, but there have been other times when the team’s stunts did not go as planned. “We were due to play a huge game and we had a display of floating bowties. As it turned out, this was a match that Lady Diana was attending, so we had to remove them all!”
Mesnel’s passion for the Eden Park brand is palpable, and his ambition for taking the pink bowtie to new heights is clear. Having made its way from the pitch to the pyramids, we were keen to speculate as to where it could end up next. In true rugby spirit, Mesnel tells us of his ideas for a new initiative, “we are thinking of devising a challenge. Keeping the pink bowtie in the pocket, we’d like to see it reach Everest!”
The content of this article is sponsored.