Canadian designer Fred Koops talks beach volleyball uniforms | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Canadian designer Fred Koops talks beach volleyball uniforms

Annie Martin, right, and Marie-Andree Lessard reach for a ball during the Beach Volleyball match against Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Sunday, July 29, 2012, . THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP - Petr David Josek

Fred Koops took a risk when he opened a beach volleyball clothing store in Toronto's east-end Beach community in 1991.

"It stemmed from not really knowing what could happen," Koop says, admitting he was a bit naive when he started. "It meant (having a), 'Let's-just-go-for-it type attitude.'"

Koops' attitude paid off.

His company, Overkill Beach and Volleywear, is sponsoring Canada's beach volleyball athletes with custom-designed uniforms for this year's Olympic Games.

"It's a real thrill not for just me and the troops, but a lot of people that associate with the Overkill brand," says the 46-year-old designer in an interview.

The men's uniform, worn by Ontario-born Josh Binstock and British Columbia native Martin Reader, consists of tank tops with a maple leaf down each side, as well as a stylized maple leaf on the back of the shirt.

"I wanted it to have a tattoo-ish type look without getting away from the athletic look," says Koops. "I was really happy with the way everything turned out."

For the women's team, partners Marie-Andree Lessard and Annie Martin, both from Quebec, are wearing sports bras. While there was less material to work with, Koops incorporated his company's logo alongside the Canadian Maple Leaf into the design.

People often question why female volleyball players play in bikinis, says Koops, but his design is exactly what the players wear on other competition tours and it's what they're most comfortable wearing.

Koops would know. He's been in the Canadian volleyball scene for over 20 years.

He started playing volleyball in high school and continued at the University of Waterloo, where he branched out into designing volleyball clothing.

"All the clothing that we were wearing was based on the lifestyle apparel from California, Hawaii and Australia," he says, adding he wanted to see some Canadian flare to beach volleyball wear.

When Koops' university volleyball team was short on funds, he started designing his own T-shirts for the team.

"The whole concept was: we're going across the country like the black plague because our uniforms were all black," he says. "Our fans started wearing (them) and we filled the stands with black pretty well at all the games we were at."

Convincing people the clothing line could expand beyond that wasn't an easy feat. Koops was met with laughter and ridicule at first.

"Banks sort of laughed me out of their place," he says. "A beach volleyball clothing brand in Canada. That doesn't make a lot of sense. We only have a couple months of summer."

That didn't stop Koops from following his dream. He enlisted his parents, who remortgaged their home to support his endeavour.

This is Koops' first time sponsoring the Canadian teams, but he's not new to the Olympics scene. He's also sponsored the volleyball duo Mark Heese and John Child.

"I used to play beach volleyball with Mark Heese," he says. "I brought him into the beach volleyball scene."

Heese and Child partnered together and won the bronze medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics while wearing the Overkill brand.

Designing wear for Olympic athletes continues to be good exposure for Koops and his company, but he says he just wants to give back to the athletes.

"If we can at least supply the athletes with what they need from clothing and give them a few extra bucks (of the proceeds), at least that takes one worry from them," he says. "The athletes in this country deserve as much as they can possibly get from us."

Koops closed his store in Toronto two years ago to partner with the company Canuck Stuff. His retail products are sold on their website and at the Canuck Stuff store in Toronto.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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