It’s not often that the contrasting worlds of fashion and rugby collide, at least not since Thom Evans was forced into retirement.
But one of Edinburgh’s new recruits for next season has been working in the rag trade for the last four years.
Although he has played the game since he was four years old, Perry-John Parker has enjoyed only one year of (semi) professional rugby at Esher. He doubled up turning out for the English Championship side with a full-time day job at WGSN. The London-based company predicts future trends in the fashion industry (four years ahead, since you ask), so last year Parker was analysing and advising the company’s clients on what will be turning heads on the catwalk and in the high street come 2016.
“My dad’s side of the family were all power lifters and rugby players,” says Parker, “while my mum’s side of the family were all interior designers from the Kings Road, going back something like 200 years.
“I left school and gave up rugby for a while when I was earning a 2:1 national diploma in fashion and textiles from Ravensbourne College. I was lucky because I was sponsored by the giant Italian firm Cerruti, who paid for all my material when I had to put together ten men’s fashion outfits for my final graduate fashion week.”
Parker first came to Edinburgh’s notice through the wonders of social media. His flatmate put together a greatest hits compilation tape of the big man in action for Esher, his agent stuck it on YouTube and someone at Edinburgh liked what they saw. Now Parker is moving from a club just relegated from England’s second tier to a side that was just pipped in the Heineken Cup semi-final. It’s a big ask but the 6ft 8in lock hopes to take the step up in one enormous stride.
“I’m really looking forward to it because it’s been a pretty quick rise through the ranks. I only returned to adult rugby recently when I captained Haywards Heath, then I had one year with Esher and I played for Sussex and now Edinburgh.
“My dad is Welsh so I qualify to play for Wales and mum is English but I know that, in three years’ time, if things work out, I’ll qualify for Scotland. If the opportunity arises I’d like to play for one of the Celtic nations.”
Meanwhile, Parker has been forced to quit his job monitoring the world of fashion in favour of full-time professional rugby with Edinburgh, where others will monitor his rugby progress just as closely.
So, when was the last time he actually designed something?
“Well, I did design Esher’s playing strips for next year but I’m not sure what’s happened to them because, when I last heard, they were stuck somewhere in Italy.”
With the likes of Sean Cox, Grant Gilchrist and Rob McAlpine all fighting for a place in Edinburgh’s boilerhouse, the big Englishman has his work cut out for him next season. He would probably swap his model good looks for a place in Edinburgh’s starting XV.
Come to think of it, he may have to.