The Christchurch earthquake on February 22nd 2011 has allowed for an exciting opportunity for Brands International and the future of women's rugby.
Dave Phillipson, CEO of Brands International Ltd and owner of the Rugbygirl clothing brand says the destruction of their Going to the Game rugby shop in Christchurch's inner city, poised to be a major player during Rugby World Cup, and the virtual wipe-out of wholesale sales of their brands Rugbygirl and Aroha has made way for the best thing that could have happened for both the business and everyone involved in women's rugby.
Phillipson has been in the clothing industry for over 42 years and during this time his achievements include: making Canterbury of New Zealand the leading rugby clothing brand in the world, creating the renowned CCC brand, and winning the Premier Export Award in 1984.
After having time after the quake to reassess the directions of his company and brand, Dave, with support and insight from his partner Dina Horan, decided someone needed to shine some spotlight on the inspiring women rugby players that this country produces and so this journey began. Rugbygirl adapted the slogan "Play today, Play tomorrow, Play forever" to mirror the spirit and commitment that Dave has seen in the players he has met.
Phillipson is confident that this is the shakeup that the sport needs to get it the credit it deserves; this insight was a part product of the inclusion of women's rugby in the 2016 Olympic Games, but Dave's inspiration also came from witnessing a girl's rugby team from Feilding High School who, in 2010, played and won all their 26 games against schools throughout New Zealand scoring 1164 points whilst conceding only 71.These girls were superbly coached by teacher, Rob Jones into athletes whose skill level, fitness and attitude surpassed any secondary school boy's team that Dave had seen or coached. It dawned on Phillipson then that, coupled with the rapid growth in females watching rugby internationally, there was a huge gap in the women's rugby market both on and off the field.
With women's rugby becoming an Olympic sport there is considerable pressure to accelerate the growth of the sport within New Zealand, as opposed to the past where they had previously stood in their male counterpart's shadow. The game is growing rapidly with the Women's NPC being re-introduced this winter and the Black Ferns now playing 3 tests per year against England, the world's number two team women's rugby team. Funding needs to be acquired for clubs and players in order to continue this growth, and ensure women's rugby in New Zealand keeps moving from strength to strength as massive funding is available in countries like China,USA ,Russia,United Kingdom now women's rugby is an Olympic sport
Before the earthquake Brands International had been working with former Black Fern and now a leading Sky Sports Rugby commentator, Melodie Robinson, focus groups of fashion orientated female rugby fans, and a leading women's clothing designer to completely redesign the Rugbygirl off field range but this has been put this on hold until 2012 so that total emphasis can be put on creating the teamwear range and developing internet sites to create a home of women's rugby and allow Phillipson to take the brand to the world.
While researching, prior to developing the Rugbygirl team wear range, Phillipson talked to three icons of New Zealand's women's rugby, Farah Palmer, Melodie Robinson and Melissa Ruscoe, as well as the players of Fielding High School's girls' rugby team, to find out what was wrong with present team wear females were playing rugby in and what they would like to see in the range. It became obvious that female rugby players do not want to play in gear designed for males, so began Brands International developing the first rugby team wear range exclusively for female rugby players.
The range includes rugby jerseys designed for female body shapes, with different shapes for smaller and larger women. These jerseys are made from lycra based fabric for fit and have two exclusive fashion styles they also have eighteen sublimated print options, some of which are unavailable to male players. Brands International have also created a range of protective compression tops and women's headgear, both of which have obtained IRB approval, compression undershorts and socks, shorts designed for females, and pink rugby balls and pink boots which are shaped to women's feet. These products have been produced by leading rugby manufacturers throughout the world and all products are designed and logoed to leave no doubt for the female players that the focus is on them and not on male rugby players.
To market the team wear Brands International formed an association with Canterbury Apparel Teamwear, a leading supplier to schools and rugby clubs, and transformed www.rugbygirl.co.nz to the leading site for female rugby players and supporters. This site is planned to be launched before the men's Rugby World Cup is over and is planned to cover up to date international, national, provincial, club, and school news regarding women's rugby, a calendar of events, products - including design your own rugby jerseys and socks, 24 hour super specials, player and team profiles, blogs from leading players, and areas of concern or celebration for the game. There are also plans for future connections to other sites which can open the door to more aspects of women's rugby, such as supporter tours and females wanting to play in teams overseas. This site will function as a one-stop-shop for rugby players and fans, and give them all they need around women's rugby in one place.
Phillipson also discovered female rugby teams were missing out on huge funding opportunities from the Charitable Trusts and Government Departments for team uniforms, tournaments, travel, coaching, player recruitment and development through not having independent Incorporated Society status so he formed the Rugbygirl Foundation Incorporated .This is a non-profit organisation set up to get female rugby the funds it needs to develop the game at grassroots level to ensure it has the player base to retain its position as the number one world team at both the Rugby World Cup and to become gold medallists at the Olympic Games. As well as spending time to obtain funding from the Charitable Trusts and Government Departments, Brands International is to donate 5% of its Rugbygirl sales to the Foundation.
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