Injury for professional sportsmen can cause more than physical trauma. Robbed of the usual training routine and principal creative outlet while convalescing, athletes can suffer boredom and a sense of lost identity.
Not Chris Brooker though. Teaming up with girlfriend Dominique Arthur, the Harlequins hooker has used his months in absentia to launch his own clothing brand, Ice Issa.
“I wasn’t able to walk for the first three or four months, so I’ve been pretty much stuck on my backside for ages,” he laments, the impatience clear in his voice.
“I needed something to do with all that time. I just wanted a back-up plan, in case I couldn’t do much rugby. I needed something that I could fall back on.”
Having suffered a horrific knee injury during a game at Newcastle last year, Chris spent 14 months agonising over his future in the sport. Now assured of a full recovery, he has used the time to explore an uncharted interest.
“My girlfriend has a lot of experience in the fashion industry,” says Chris. “It made sense to do something we both enjoy.”
Having studied in Milan and gained a masters degree at the London College of Fashion, Dominique had the flair to kick-start a venture that would lift Brooker’s bruised spirit.
“We divide the responsibilities 50/50. She creates all the designs on Photoshop, but I choose the idea and the backing of the design. I also get the final say!”
Now a fledgling online store, Ice Issa’s 100% organic cotton T-shirts have proved popular with the Quins.
“We showed a few of the rugby boys some of the designs and they really seemed to like them.
“In fact, we’ve been getting the boys to wear them and we’re getting a good following with the rugby fans.”
While Chris will undoubtedly rejoin the scrum in the months ahead, he has high hopes and ambitions for Ice Issa.
“We researched the things that we believed would have a wide appeal,” he explains. “We’re only doing men and kids at the moment, from about 10 years upward.
“We’d like to think that, in a couple of years, we’ll have a shop. Perhaps we’ll bring in women’s wear. We’d like to do baseball caps with logos, along with knitwear and, in the good weather, vests and some shorts.”
Meanwhile the day job calls.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be back playing next season,” he stresses. “I’m ready to get back into it.”
London Fashion Week can wait.