A while back we at Twisted Spoke did a piece on Radio Shack uber-boss Johan Bruyneel’s ever-expanding empire. He has his own youtube channel, book, web site, facebook fan page, video show, twitter feed, charity foundation and consulting company. The man is live 24/7 and working it like a James Brown sex machine. In a Radio Shack jersey, crazy.
But there was a hole in the empire and a few hours of free time still left unsold, so Bruyneel created an entire fashion line — “casual wear for cycling’s greatest fans.” Who knew the Belgian had a secret itch to do fashion? Was he secretly sewing all those years in the Postal bus? “Chechu, pass me that ball of yarn, willya?”
In any case, the Spring collection is out with stylin’ goods for men and women including the Cobbles and Dynasty lines. That’s right, dynasty. Makes us think the t-shirts should last more than one summer. You don’t want to be wearing that predictable Hincapie stuff everybody else has, right? That would be like Gap when you could go Armani.
The Bruyneel website announced the new Spring arrivals with a note that “JB debuts the new Johan Bruyneel collection.” We had to laugh — doubtful that Bruyneel’s kids have ever addressed their father as JB. Grounded for a month, no frites for a year, But the marketing people told Johan he needed a hipster tag so JB it is. (Natural cross promotion: JB with J&B scotch, on the rocks, on the bike.)
And make no mistake, these t-shirts, baseball caps and zip jackets are runway rocking. Because Johan not only knows how to guide his riders to 10 Tour de France victories, he’s also good with a sketch pad. Even during a race, swerving the team car at high speed, between riders and motorcycles and roadside fans, Johan is thinking about fabric, texture, the way a cotton polyester blend drapes.
The fashion world should tremble because Bruyneel is thinking big: men’s suits, leather goods, dress shoes, a Bruyneel cologne. JB After Dark, JB formal wear, Bruyneel label bedding, JB for Baby. You laugh until you remember that Ralph Lauren started by selling ties to classmates.
Calvin Klein launched his fashion empire with a coat. Designer Paul Smith’s only ambition as a young man was to be a racing cyclist but his father hauled him off to work in a clothing warehouse. Bruyneel is following in illustrious footsteps. This Spring, a cotton t-shirt, next Spring, silk Bruyneel boxers.
In all these things, one must return to the model, the inspiration, the impetus. The think-gigantic universe of Lance Armstrong. Bruyneel widened the Texan’s view one time but it was enough. After recovering from cancer, Armstrong took fourth place in the grueling three week Vuelta a Espana stage race. Johan told Lance he could win the tour de France. We all know what happened seven times in a row.
In turn, Armstrong showed Bruyneel the astonishing array of opportunities that awaited anyone with ambition and, not coincidentally, the Lance calling card to bust open doors. Lance laid down a template and the Belgian jumped on the program.
Things to look for in the near future that are probably on the Bruyneel drawing board. Bruyneel Brew. Again, working the Armstrong suds connection, he launches a Belgian ale and by golly it will be killer stuff. Yo-Yo-Han, a line of street punk skateboards and wheels. Tour de Inner City, baby.
The Armstrong market machinery almost rivals the Disney method for thoroughness of execution and smart target marketing This is not a criticism, this is applause in full. Bruyneel and Armstrong are classic, type A, self made men, captains in industry, titans of the free market. I will get their autographs at the Tour of California even if I have to wear my Phil Liggett mask.
Now, we’ve had our fun because really, Johan posing as JB and calling a bunch of T-shirts and baseball caps a fashion line is silly. But Twisted Spoke once again puts the Lance and Johan Show in the higher stratosphere. The rest of the cycling world is scratching around for sponsors while the LA and JB make bank. Props to them.