Ellis Rugby Fashion Design


It’s interesting to note that the key elements of branding that were once considered essential are no longer deemed important in many sports today. I often find it difficult to identify teams due to the variety of rugby jerseys they wear. Club colors seem to be losing their significance, with wild pink or neon green shirts frequently appearing among the options. The sheer number of designs now available seems excessive, with a new shirt launch seemingly every other week.

My Career Path

Before Ellis Rugby, I spent much of my adult life working in an ad agency, which paid the bills while I pursued my real passion: playing professional rugby. Back then, Rugby Union was amateur, but Rugby League offered payments that supplemented my day job. I was fortunate to work with talented people and on some great ad accounts, including Porsche, ICI, Microsoft, McCain Foods, and Fox’s Biscuits. As a junior, I gained a good understanding of most aspects of the business.

Moving into Design Consultancy

In my mid-twenties, I joined a newly launched Design Consultancy, eventually working my way up to Director level. We specialised in all forms of branding and identity implementation for businesses and their marketing activities.

Importance of Colour in Branding

Wolff-Olins, one of the largest corporate identity consultancies, published a book called “Corporate Identity” in 1989, which was regarded as the industry bible. We learned that brand elements are the unique aspects of a brand. Beyond the obvious logos and fonts, the colour palette was equally important in creating a cohesive look. We recognise a brand’s success in creating a color scheme when specific colors immediately trigger brand recognition in our minds, like Starbucks Green, Netflix Red, or PayPal Blue.

Stade Français and the Pink Revolution

So, how can a club switch to a pink shirt? In 2005, Stade Français president Max Guazzini wanted to make a statement with Parisian supporters and introduced the now-iconic pink kit. The colour, a stark contrast to the macho rugby world, had the desired impact. The club sold over 20,000 replica shirts in the 2005-06 season. The following season, another pink jersey was designed by fashion designer Kenzo. Stade Français officially changed its identity colours to Pink and Navy, departing from the royal blue shirts, red shorts, and white socks they had worn since their formation in 1883.

Impact of Innovation on Tradition

When the pink jersey was introduced, I’m sure Guazzini didn’t realize its eventual impact. It wasn’t popular with many at the club, but the legacy of the pink shirt lives on. To this day, it remains the most distinctive shirt in rugby. Whether Guazzini intended it or not, the club launched a new brand identity with this young, vibrant look.

Balancing Tradition and Innovation

Personally, I’m a traditionalist and believe that international jerseys should honour their heritage. I want players and fans to take pride in the jerseys, which are deeply connected to the team’s colours and traditions. However, sometimes, as with Stade Français, a fresh approach can inspire the creation of new traditions.

Interested in Ellis Rugby Fashion Design, then email Kevin at [email protected]