Whether you’re in it for the fierce, head-smashing competition, the radical sportsmanship, or the, erm, view, there’s no denying that rugby has its fair share of fans in Vancouver. And while elite players are typically known for their speed and impressive strength, it turns out all that intensive training presents them with a problem that us average-to-reasonably-fit folks may deal with on a more manageable scale: finding comfortable everyday clothes that look good and actually fit.
Let Michael Nguyen, bespoke tailor to some of Canada’s top sports superstars and celebrities, explain. “All athletes are built bigger in specific areas,” he tells the Straight during an interview at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. “Rugby players usually have really thick legs, really big butts, and really big backs with wider shoulders.”
Fair enough. However, it appears that finding flattering attire is an issue so prevalent among hardcore rugby players that Nguyen has partnered with Darrell Kopke, a longtime rugby fanatic and former Lululemon executive, to found Ædelhard, a Canadian-designed and -made collection of professional, tailored performance apparel for men that, according to Kopke, offers the “most comfortable suiting in the world”.
“We’re a rugby-inspired performance tailor,” he explains alongside Nguyen. “So we take fabrics you normally see on the rugby pitch and put it into a modern tailor.”
The recently launched line includes 16 garments, including blazers, Oxford shirts, and fitted trousers, starting at USD$119, that come in a core palette of black, grey, white, and navy. Designed by Nguyen, whose full-time gig is dressing the Toronto Raptors, Maple Leafs, and FC, all pieces are crafted with the rugby player’s body in mind so pant fronts are made roomier to accommodate larger thighs, for example, and jacket inserts and linings are ommitted to allow for more movement in the back.
“We’ve actually used body mapping to increase the size and space in some areas and decrease it in others,” says Nguyen.
As Kopke mentions, the Ædelhard collection is manufactured using breathable, four-way-stretch fabrics that zap moisture, keep their shape, and possess anti-bacterial properties, to boot. In addition, the line, which also includes toques and bags, is machine-washable and meant to be mixed and matched. “Everything is interchangeable, so you can’t screw it up,” adds Nguyen. “The idea is to play with it and make it your own.”
And while the duo is committed to catering to rugby players on and off the pitch—even going as far as to “battle-test” the garments in workout and high-intensity settings—that’s not to say non-athletes and those removed from the rugby community can’t embrace the label. In fact, Nguyen says the line’s cuts and fabrics are made to flatter heights and bodies of all types. Those with slimmer builds or smaller rears must simply size down, he notes, adding that prioritizing ease-of-wear was key in the design process.
“It’s the look of a regular suit, like office clothing,” he states, “but then when you actually wear it, it’s extremely comfortable.”
Barely a week old, Ædelhard is available exclusively online, though it’s looking to enter a number of high-end retailers in time for spring. The brand also has a philanthropic side: two percent from every sale goes to help inner-city rugby-development programs. It’s all part of Ædelhard’s goal to forward the values of rugby—“humility, integrity, and chivalry,” lists Kopke—while ensuring its players look and feel their best.
“We aspire to bring the elite performance from your athletic endeavors into the work environment,” says Kopke. “As such, you need to be comfortable and unencumbered. And too long, men have suffered with tight, restrictive suiting. We’re changing that by rethinking what work attire should be like.”