Eden Park is a brand with a story to tell. It all began at the 1987 Rugby World Cup Final when the French rugby team played the All Blacks wearing pink bow ties.
The rag trade is filled with stories but we’re pretty sure there are none to match this. With Six Nations tournament about to kick off it seemed appropriate to tell it now.
Back in ‘87 Franck Mesnel played on the backline for Paris rugby team, Racing Club de France along with Philippe Guillard, Yvon Rousset, Jean-Baptiste Lafond, and Eric Blanc. Young, handsome and talented they were the toast of the town. The press loved them. The public loved them. No doubt the ladieeees loved them.
Fuelled by all the attention, they were having a whale of a time on pitch and off. They gained a reputation for playing pranks, courting the press and living life large. They gained a nickname too ‘Le Showbizz.’ And they played it for all it was worth as the clip of their appearance on a chat show above shows – what can we say it was the ‘80’s. Cringe!
More than once they played in fancy dress. They went to Bayonne wearing berets, expecting an easy win. When it became clear the win wasn’t going to be easy the berets became their motivation. If they didn’t win, the joke would be on them.
As much as they wanted to bring a playful spirit to the game they were deadly serious sportsmen. They were there to win.
As Franck Mesnel puts it: ‘If a lawyer wears a red nose to make an argument then it had better be a good argument.’
Pink Panther – Pink Bow Tie
And so it went, taking inspiration from their unofficial mascot and ultimate prankster, the Pink Panther, they took their mischief to the playing fields of France seeking to entertain the public and outplay the competition.
Often their antics would land them in hot water. The pink bow ties (pink for the Pink Panther) made their first appearance during a match against Agen. For those unfamiliar with the nuances of French rugby union Agen are a team of giants who hail from the south and take great glee in bashing jumped up Parisiens.
Rolling onto the pitch wearing pink bow ties was always going to goad Agen into acts of violence but even in a rugby culture where brutality flourished it was a hard game.
The World Cup Final – Eden Park, 1987
Still it did nothing to deter them and having been picked to play for his country Mesnel and his friends rode the wave of adoration all the way to the final of the first ever Rugby World Cup in Auckland.
Perhaps a little giddy with it all, the chaps decided it was time for the pink bow ties to put in another appearance.
Picture the scene: the All Blacks – huge and fierce, mid-haka – facing a French backline done up in pink bow ties. Surreal sporting moments of our time.
Sadly for the fun-loving Paris boys, the All Blacks clearly don’t rattle as easily as French provincial players and the neckties couldn’t put a dent in the 29-9 score.
Eden Park – A Brand is Born
Rugby was still an amateur game at this time so when the high jinx and sporting glory – coming second was still pretty glorious – were over, Mesnel’s only option was to return to vie normale. Except that life by comparison life as an architecture student at the Beaux Arts in Paris was pretty dull.
It niggled Mesnel that all the fun he’d had on his journey to Eden Park had to come to an end. Surely there was some way to harness that energy and esprit, to keep it alive and share it with others?
No stranger to design after six years at the Beaux Arts, Mesnel soon came up with the idea of combining his talents for design, dressing up and rugby in the creation of a fashion brand. He would make great clothes that embodied the wit, style and sporting credentials of ‘Le Showbizz’. And what better name for this brand than Eden Park, a name that immediately identified his brand with international rugby and symbolised the peak of his achievements to date.
Eden Park – The Early Days
Mesnel left behind his career in architecture and with the help of his ‘Showbizz’ chums founded Eden Park. For the next 10 years not only was he the driving force at Eden Park, he also continued to play rugby at international level. His record below makes for impressive reading.
Franck Mesnel – International Rugby Stats
Franck Mesnel had 56 caps for France, from 1986 to 1995, scoring eight tries and three drop goals, 41 points in aggregate. He won the Five Nations four times, first with a Grand Slam, in 1987, then in 1988, tied with Wales, 1989 and 1993. Mesnel also played in three Rugby World Cup finals, in 1987, being vice-champion, 1991 and 1995.
Today, Franck Mesnel remains as CEO and his brand as presence worldwide. His ethos remains unchanged: style, fun, wit and sport. He insists on high standards of quality and pursues a policy of charitable giving. Particularly interested in promoting rugby and the health and education benefits of sport, Eden Park’s charitable foundation, “Les Papillons du Ciel,” opened a school in Madagascar in 2012.
It’s no wonder Mesnel and Eden Park are so popular in the rugby world – Eden Park is the official clothing partner for the English rugby union – not only are his clothes great but he’s one of the good guys. Despite that dodgy song!
See the full A Hume Eden Park Collection.
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