Off the Ice and onto the Runway: The Unlikely Pairing of Brawn and Beauty
posted by Paul Mucciarone
Off the Ice and onto the Runway: The Unlikely Pairing of Brawn and Beauty
By Natalie M. Oshin, MBA Student
As a student of LIM, it goes without saying that I have a passion for fashion. However, it may not be as evident, based on my petite frame, high-pitched voice, and bubbly personality, that the sport of ice hockey also plays an important role in my life. In high school, I played for two years on the boys’ varsity ice hockey team, and later when on to play for the women’s club team at the University of Pennsylvania. For the last 3 years, I have been a volunteer coach for the nonprofit organization Ice Hockey in Harlem, the main objective of which is to improve the social and academic wellbeing of children from the Harlem community through participation in ice hockey. For those of you who are unfamiliar with ice hockey, it tends to be a very expensive sport; the cost of ice time, equipment, and club fees can add up to more than $1,000 per child, per season! Since 1987, Ice Hockey in Harlem has helped thousands of children participate in a sport that would otherwise be financially unavailable to them.
To fund its efforts, Ice Hockey in Harlem hosts several fundraisers throughout the year, consisting of golf outings, dinner parties, and an annual sports auction. Historically, I have not been involved with these events; my main contribution to the program has always been the time I spend with the kids on the ice. However, when I got an email announcing that Ice Hockey in Harlem’s next fundraising event would be Fashion Faceoff, a hockey-inspired fashion show and design competition, I knew that this would be one event that I absolutely could not miss.
Only seldom do the worlds of ice hockey and fashion collide. The most famous intersection of brawn and beauty can be credited to former New York Rangers player, Sean Avery. In 2008, Avery was a popular player in the NHL, whose celebrity crossed over into the New York City social and fashion scenes. Avery made national headlines when it was announced that he would be spending the summer off-season that year interning at Vogue magazine. An article in Women’s Wear Daily, written about the interesting career move, describes Avery as "a self-confessed clotheshorse who has been known to give girlfriends advice on how to dress, and in interviews has expressed a dream to become a fashion editor after his days on the ice.” The following year, Avery tried his hand at designing, working with men's fashion label Commonwealth Utilities to present a clothing line for Fashion Week in New York City. In early 2012, Avery was a guest judge on Lifetime’s Project Runway All-Stars, and later that year, he served as the face of Hickey Freeman's Spring/Summer 2012 ad campaign.
Although Avery’s foray into fashion is the most well-known, other NHL players have also shown an interest in the field. In 2008, Alexander Ovechkin, decorated captain of the Washington Capitals, launched the Ovechkin Designer Street Wear Collection for men in collaboration with hockey brand CCM and designer Roger Edwards. Three years later, accomplished New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist took home the “Most Stylish Athlete” award at the 9th annual Style Awards, and has topped numerous best dressed lists. Entire NHL teams are also stepping off the ice and onto the runway. At the end of 2011, the NHL’s New York Rangers signed a surprising sponsorship deal with DKNY, allowing the fashion brand to adorn the team’s practice jerseys with its recognizable logo. (If my instincts are correct, that will simply be the first of many similar deals to come in future seasons.)
Ice Hockey in Harlem’s September 4th Fashion Faceoff fundraiser was the latest example of the ever-increasing overlap between hockey and fashion. Taking place at the posh Manhattan nightclub, Providence, the fashion competition brought together key players from both arenas. In attendance were retired NHL players Chris and Peter Ferraro, and Italian designer and socialite Maria Valentino. The event’s judges included E.J. Johnston, creator and executive producer of NBC’s hit show Fashion Star, Ville Leino, a forward for the Buffalo Sabres NHL franchise, and Nova Lorraine, founder and editor of Raine magazine. For the event, ten designers were invited to create a collection composed of three looks inspired by hockey team colors, logos, or anything else related to the sport.
Featured designers included Dania Richardson, Kayty Turpin, Wickett Ophelia, Jene Stefaniak, Malinda Williams, Rebecca Bernstein, Paola Richardo, Brina Stella, Arzu Akcay, and Keon Brown. Although she did not place in the top three, one of the designers whose work I though was most impressive was Malinda Williams of Oakland, California. While a clear connection to hockey was not immediately evident in the majority of the designers’ work, Williams’ men’s jacket and shorts combo was the exception. Inspired by the red and blue lines on a hockey rink, Williams designed a simple, yet innovative look, without being too literal in her interpretation. By the judges’ assessment, the big winner of the evening was Keon Brown of Paterson, New Jersey. Brown was inspired by the New Jersey Devils, “with its wickedly chic details, bold color, and sassy silhouettes.” His three designs received top honors, earning him the grand prize of a 2-page fashion spread in Raine magazine.
Although I did not take part in the competition as a featured designer, I was inspired to create a design of my own, which I wore to the event. My design was a strapless cocktail dress, made from my old practice jerseys and hockey skate laces. Since the dress was so traditional in its design, only upon closer inspection did some people actually recognize the materials I had used. Based upon who commented on my dress, I was able to determine the true hockey fans in attendance. The dress was such a hit, perhaps I’ll create some more pieces and start a collection for other hockey-playing fashionistas. (There have got to me more of us out there, right?)
My takeaway from Ice Hockey in Harlem’s Fashion Faceoff event was that the seemingly polar worlds of ice hockey and fashion are not as separate as we once thought. Upon chatting with some of the organizers after the event, I learned that initially not everyone was convinced a fashion-themed hockey fundraiser would draw enough interest as some of the organization’s more traditional events. However, the event proved to be a huge success, bringing together an eclectic mix of athletes, designers, philanthropists, and fashion enthusiasts, all for a worthy cause.
My advice to both the hockey and the fashion worlds is to take notice. Hockey players are a unique breed of athlete. As much as we don’t mind shedding sweat and blood for an overtime goal, we still care that our hair looks good when we take off our helmets. As much as we poke fun at Sean Avery for his stint at Vogue and his preoccupation with his physical appearance, at least he’s honest about being so vain. Hell, there’s a reason hockey tape comes in so many colors, and why Ovechkin’s CCM skates from two years ago (with the yellow laces) are still available for sale in every size online. Whether we admit it or not, we as hockey players care about fashion. Not until we proudly fess up to this taboo interest can we begin to capitalize on the untapped white space at the intersection of brawn and beauty.