When fashion houses push the boat out

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 April, 2012, 12:00am


Sport and fashion have always made comfortable bedfellows and the alliance has yielded some lasting partnerships across the years.

High-profile sports personalities provide a measure of credibility that lends fashion a certain gravitas. Prada recently became official sponsor of Italy's sailing team for this summer's London Olympics. And in February, Spanish footwear label Camper entered a yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Last week, German label Hugo Boss brought to our shores its decade-long partnership with competitive sailing. Acclaimed British yachtsman Alex Thomson visited Hong Kong to lead a tour of the company's majestic 60-foot racing yacht. He and his crew - decked out, of course, in Hugo Boss from head to toe - got the press on board and went sailing for two hours.

With more than 20 years of sailing under his belt, 37-year-old Thomson is a veteran yachtsman. But he also knows a thing or two about keeping sponsors happy. 'You have to think about giving commercial value back to your sponsors,' says Thomson, who, at the age of 25, became the youngest person to win a round-the-world race.

To that end, earlier this year a suavely dressed Thomson performed what's known as 'the keel walk' in a thrilling advertising stunt for his sponsor. 'When you fall into the sea with a suit on, all the buttons rip and you end up half naked in the water,' he says. 'So for the final stunt I had to be sewn into the suit.'

Competitive sailing in China has boundless potential, but unlike basketball or tennis, the sport is yet to find a mainland figurehead. A raft of sailing magazines are based in Asia, and the region's super rich have developed a passion for luxury craft, as shown by the brisk business conducted at trade shows such as the Millionaire Fair in Shanghai, Top Marques Macau and the Hainan Rendezvous.

Hugo Boss has clearly tapped a winner in the broad-shouldered Thomson, and it's a collaboration that can only grow stronger and more mutually beneficial.