Gaining grounds through rugby
2 April, 2017, 12:00 am
WHAT do you have when you put together an American who loves rugby sevens and a Fijian graphic designer? A rugby 7s clothing line of course.
American fan Russell Thomas and James Bale of Taveuni in the Northern Division have been making waves among fans after launching their new clothing line — HOOKA RUGBY.
The new clothing line feature jerseys, hoodies, polo shirts, singlets and caps supporting countries that take part in the HSBC sevens tournaments.
“The idea came about after Russel and I were chatting about how big sevens rugby is in the US,” said James, the Fiji-based partner.
“It was only until early this year that we decided to bring the idea to life.”
Russell Thomas used to play American football back in high school and has always been inspired by the game of rugby.
He is also married to Mabel McKenzie from Savusavu, Fiji.
“We want to produce and sell quality products at a reasonable price. We been working day and night to get new and explosive designs that any one age group can wear not just to the games but anywhere,” he said.
A certified network administrator, James only took up graphic design after working for an apparel company.
After a number of years working for Australian Standards & Australian Designers, it gave him the confidence to explore the graphic designing field.
The experience has taken him as far as Canberra, Australia. Upon returning to Fiji he registered his local business under Bale Designs. He does most of the designing of the clothing line here in Fiji.
The duo’s main target are sevens rugby fans or even rugby fans in general or those who want to look good representing their country/ team.
“There isn’t any specific age group because we are working on making products for all age groups from kids to adults,” said the local entrepreneur.
“The preparations for Hooka rugby began one week before the HSBC Vegas 7s, where we had to set up the website, logistics and social media. The response from our US customers has been really great, all positive responses,” said Bale.
“They like the price and quality of it and most have been coming back to us since the Vegas 7s. Few customers have ordered mainly to take them down to the Hong Kong sevens in April. We’ve also got requests as far as France and the UK so we’re trying to get our website to be able to accept international customers.”
According to James, their business is registered in Stockton, California. They have also upgraded their website so customers could make purchases online from anywhere in the US.
“The only challenge we’re having right now is having to get vendor approval by the HSBC/World Rugby for next year’s 7s World Cup in San Francisco. Otherwise we are working tirelessly to make sure every fan and all the supporters are proud to support their teams or country with our products,” he said.
“At the moment we are taking things as they come but we would like to be able to cater for all our customers in all rugby sevens tournaments.”
Since that is what they want, what are their strategies for the coming year for accomplishing it?
“To gain exposure with our product, tackle international shipping and be ready for next year’s Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco,” he said with a smile of confidence.