From being one of the major leaguers of rugby worldwide, to a celebrity, and now the founder and president of a popular Parisian premium lifestyle brand known as Eden Park, Frank Mesnel, who is also an architect and a pilot at heart, has come a long way in his professional journey from sports to fashion. From humble beginnings of only 60 rugby wears in 1987, Eden Park has now established about 600 stores in 30 countries worldwide, including here in Indonesia, early this year.
Q: Enlighten us about Eden Park – how did it come about?
Frank Mesnel (FM): I was just a 26-year-old architect student and a fresh rugby player when I moved quickly up in the ranks (from the first to the third division) in a very short period of time. This helped my decision in pursuing rugby over my other passions in architecture and piloting. As a rugby player, my teammates and I would pull simple pranks or jokes during the games, one of which was wearing a pink bow tie over our rugby jerseys for a big finale game. We may have lost the match but we became a sensation after. We were seen to be stylish rugby players. People expected us to expand that sensation into something more concrete, and so my partner – Eric Blanc – and I said “carpe diem”! This is when we decided to create a premium clothing line, using the pink bow tie as a marketing strategy.
We started with about 60 quality rugby jerseys, which we consider as the “Rolls Royce” of rugby jerseys, then moved on to 100 pieces and our first store in 1988.
Q: How do you differ from other lifestyle brands?
FM: First and foremost we are not a luxury brand but a premium one, which means we provide quality products with an elegant and luxurious flair but on affordable prices.
Next, we are the first fashion brand that is inspired by rugby so you will be able to see certain features such as stripes and oval pockets based on that.
We are also very detailed orientated with our style. We want people to recognize our product even without the logo. For example, we have incorporated a stripe behind some collars when it is popped up. We are true to our strong rugby-inspired DNA and the “French flair”.
Q: Define what is the “French flair” and how has it inspired your line of products?
FM: The “French flair” defines our attitude and personality; it is Parisian creative know-how and a way of life. It is a touch of arrogance yet charming, bold yet stylish, risky yet discipline, out of the box yet elegant. The French flair is about breaking traditions, while still following an ethical code. We have used this spirit in our fashion sense.
The “French flair” is not only embodied in the products but also in our modern and minimalist stores where typical French Parisian touches can be found such as classic herringbone parquet flooring.
Q: Tell us about the importance and significance of the “pink bow tie” in your brand?
FM: The pink bow tie is our symbolic logo, recognized worldwide. It is the definition of our “French flair”. The pink bow tie sensation started off as simple joke where we decided to pair it up with our jerseys for one of our rugby finals (with the authorization of our heads, of course.). Although we lost that day, the press became crazy and labeled us as “showbiz” – all thanks to that bow tie. Our popularity grew so quickly in such a short period, so I couldn’t help but grab the opportunity to do something about it. This inspired us to create a premium clothing line based on the values of rugby. In short, the pink bow tie defines the company’s personality and sense of style – unconventional and elegant.
Q: Aside from clothing, Eden Park also offers a home line such as bath towels, beddings as well as perfumes. Why did you choose to expand into such accessories?
FM: Two things – First, I am an architect by heart so I wanted to be able to touch on that. Second, we wanted to give a touch of our “French flair” in your homes with some premium home products. This is a beautiful line for the “spoiled” hearts.
Q: How did you imply the values of rugby to your brand?
FM: Rugby means strong and solid, so this inspired us to create long wear products. Also, the game has taught me that you cannot succeed alone in the field, even if you are very good at what you do. When you work as a team, you will soar higher and faster. Another value is to keep yourself grounded and to know your limits, which has helped me remain true to the brand.
Q: Where do you see Eden Park in the next five years?
FM: We are beginning to think more eco-friendly so in the near future we hope to be able to produce more eco-friendly products. For example, we would like to try and re-use fabrics. Soon we would like to also offer customers to refurbish their clothes simply by changing the color. This way the product looks brand new without using new material, while still remaining durable and comfortable. We are also working on using more linen rather than cotton as it uses lesser water.
Aside from a more eco-friendly environment, we would obviously like to expand to more countries. Even though we are pretty niche, I would like our quality products to occupy a small space around the world.
Q: What do you wish to achieve from your visit here in Jakarta, Indonesia?
FM: In order to further expand in Indonesia, I have to analyze the market and adapt my products accordingly. For example, I have to decrease the weight of some fabric without losing its solidity and quality, due to the tropical weather here. I have to also research on details such as whether the color pink is workable or a nightmare for the citizens here, or if a particular number on a jersey is good or bad. For example, in China, the number four and 13 is a no-no. So I need to consider all factors when analyzing the market.
Q: Tell us the vision behind Les Papillons du Ciel and what do you wish to achieve from it? Why did you establish College du Rocher?
FM: I believe in giving back! With Les Papillons du Ciel we focus mainly on underprivileged children. One of our most recent projects is College du Rocher. We established College du Rocher, which means stone college because there is a massive stone that cannot be moved in the middle of the school, in an island in Madagascar five years ago because the nearest school for the kids was on a different island. Before our college, the kids had to wake up at 4 am to jump on the first boat out to reach school at 7 am on another island. Since establishing, we have reached 100 students.
Q: You have traveled around the world a lot, where would you say is your favorite city?
FM: Sydney! It is like Paris at sea. I love the lifestyle and vibe there. You would see people up and about exercising or doing sports at 5 am, then go off to work at 8 am, then back home to chill at 4 pm and so on. You can see a great mixture of hard work and leisure in Sydney. I hope to move there someday.
Interviewed and written by Divyha Pridhnani-Bhojwani