At 21 England Sevens’ fly-half, Christian Lewis-Pratt, has his whole career ahead of him, but this hasn’t stopped the dynamic back preparing for life after rugby. The Players’ Room caught up with him to find out how he and his brother Ed intend to take on the world of fashion with the launch of ‘mytees’.
Where did the inspiration for mytees come from?
My brother, Ed, and I have always had an interest in fashion and during a trip to my dad’s house in Portugal we got talking about why we wear certain items of clothing. We’ve all got a couple of t-shirts in our wardrobes that we call our ‘go to tees’ for things like dates or nights out and we wondered why it was we chose those shirts, eventually deciding it was because of how well they fit.
It was then that we started to discuss if we could design our own t-shirts how would they look and how could we make them even better than those we already had? Our next thought was how can we make a t-shirt with not only the go to fit but with a more interesting design at the same time?
I honestly don’t know who came up with it, my brother or me, we both argue over who it was, but we came up with the idea of using the word ‘My’. It’s a word that you can put with a lot of other words to make some powerful slogans, add in the logo and we felt that we had a really strong idea. We then sourced a cotton supplier in Porto, Portugal as they are known for having the finest cotton in Europe and it all went from there really.
For those who don’t know, how would you describe mytees?
I’d say clean street wear with a personal touch. The idea is we allow the wearer to make a metaphorical statement about themselves that would be different to anyone else who is wearing the same t-shirt.
For example, if I was to wear a ‘mylife’ t-shirt and you were too we could be sending out two very different messages. That’s what we think is so great about the t-shirts, the ability to say something without saying a lot, you choose a slogan and let the t-shirt do the talking.
Where did the idea for the thumb print logo come from?
It came as result of a whole range of things; we originally had an eye as the main logo, we came up with a lot of ideas that just looked terrible. As a whole we’re now really happy with the logo but we’re still not 100% happy with some of the slogans on the shirts, we think we’ve got a great idea but we haven’t quite nailed it yet in terms of design.
We’re hoping to get that right with our latest range, which comes out later this year. We went through more prototypes than we were hoping to and it certainly cost more than we expected but that’s the process we have to go through to get to where we’re going.
Do you see yourself as a bit of a ‘fashionista’ or are you more interested in the business side of things?
It’s more the fashion side of things I’m interested in, I’m constantly spending money on clothes so I thought why not make your own clothes and spend less money! I’ve always wanted to do something outside of rugby but had very little interest in studying. I was happy with my A Levels but I’m not very driven in terms of education so when this opportunity presented itself it seemed perfect.
Where does your interest in the fashion industry come from?
I don’t really know to be honest, both my brother and I have a bit of a shoe fetish! We live together and if you were to come round to our flat you’d see more shoes than if two girls were sharing a house!
How important do you think it is to be prepared for life after rugby and is it something you’ve always been aware of?
I think it’s extremely important, as I said I haven’t studied after school and I don’t have a degree to fall back on, so having something lined up and in particular something that you’re passionate about is really important to me.
A rugby career can come to an end at any time, ask the people it’s happened too. I contemplated giving up rugby after my first year as a professional, I just didn’t hugely enjoy playing full-time and I looked in to doing other things, but thankfully I decided to carry on and this is now my dream job.
You see the boys who are coming to the end of their careers and how they are starting to look at things outside of rugby but I think it’s important that the younger guys do as well because one bad tackle and your career could be over.
How do you think your England Sevens’ team-mates would describe your fashion sense?
That all depends on who you ask! Hopefully they would describe it as good… we’ve got a good young vibe in the Sevens squad so most of us have a similar taste in fashion, a couple of the boys may question a few of the items in my wardrobe though.
Which of them do you think has the worst taste in fashion?
Ollie Phillips, he’s a recent addition to the squad, he’s not necessarily the worst but he’s definitely out there. When we meet for lunch most of us will be wearing our casual England kit and he’ll turn up in a bright pair of turquoise shorts, boat shoes and a Ralph Lauren shirt just for a squad lunch.
How do you fit the business around your busy rugby schedule?
At the moment I train Monday to Wednesday in camp so other than answer e-mails I leave things to my brother in the early part of the week. I’m based in Richmond and we keep our stock nearby so if I have to post t-shirts out it’s easy enough to do.
I also train on a Friday and Saturday but that’s only for around three hours a day so as you can imagine I do have a lot of free time on my hands. My brother is a marketing executive so his business hours are just as interesting as mine but it seems to work for us.
I’ve not been on a trip since we started the business so obviously that will be more demanding on Ed’s time and perhaps we may have to bring someone else in to help out, but I trust my brother so I’m sure things will work out fine.
Where did the inspiration for the video (youtube; # makeitmy) on the mytees website come from?
The idea was based on a scavenger hunt, sort of like Top Gear, here’s where you need to get to and this where you start from and anything else that happens in between is down to you. We decided between us that we were going to head to a couple of venues and stick some promotional stickers up and see what happened.
Along the way I managed to put a t-shirt on a skateboarder, who then performed loads of tricks, my brother managed to get hold of a young guy who did Parkour, so he was doing flips and everything, we had buskers, the general public, it’s crazy how much stuff you can get done by just walking round London, the amount of talent just on the street was amazing.
The video was made by a close friend of ours, Tom Carling, which is great because everything we’ve done so far has been done within a friendship group and we haven’t had to branch out yet; it’s almost like a little family. That in itself is a huge advantage as it keeps costs down but it also helps promote the work that our friends do and that’s something we’re really proud of.
How is it having your brother as a business partner, do you get on well and who has the final say on the big decisions?
So far we haven’t really come to a disagreement as such; obviously we have a few different ideas on the design but we’re fairly good at coming to decisions together, we argue very little as brothers which is beneficial.
Ed’s 24 and I’m 21 so we’re pretty close and have a good relationship. There hasn’t really been a final say yet so we’ll have to wait and see, there hasn’t been enough money involved, I guess I’ll have to start keeping close tabs on him when things really take off!
Where do you hope mytees will be in five years’ time?
Ideal situation I’d love to have a ‘mystore’ and be selling t-shirts, hoodies, jumpers, trousers and start our own brand of fashion. We’ve got a number of ideas for the future but we’re keeping those ideas close to our chest for the moment.
Hopefully I’ll still be playing Sevens especially with the Olympics coming up. As long as the brand grows and I stay passionate about the business that’s the most important thing for me.
You’ve just touched upon the Olympics; I take it you’re excited about the prospect of possibly being part of the squad that goes to Rio in 2016?
Absolutely, I didn’t really think about it when I signed, I think everyone has been keeping it in the back of their mind but with the success of London 2012 I think it’s now at the forefront but I think it’s important that we stay focused on the HSBC World Sevens Series because we haven’t mastered that one yet.
I think we’re going to be a very strong team this year, the competition in our squad is crazy, especially at halfback, my position. There are some great new signings and the quality of training sessions for this point of the year is extremely high.
To find out more about mytees and to view the makeitmy promotional video visit www.mytees.co.uk
All photographs courtesy of mytees.