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New Designer Profile: Meden

Three of the collection’s partners hail from the professional sports world.

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Meden is a new women’s contemporary collection from four guys looking for a fashion project. Three of the line’s partners hail from the professional sports world: Derek Roy plays hockey for the St. Louis Blues; Mike Napoli is an infielder for the Boston Red Sox, and ceo Michael Dombkiewicz played minor league hockey for four years before moving into finance at Merrill Lynch. Then there’s Meden’s creative director Walter Lee to bring a fashion background to the table. He studied at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and worked for lines including Monarchy and Rogue before getting involved in Meden.

This story first appeared in the April 9, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

How three jocks and one designer came together for a fashion start-up is less improbable than it seems. Dombkiewicz and Roy originally met playing junior hockey on opposing teams in Canada when they were 20 and 15, respectively. They reconnected years later in Dombkiewicz’s hometown of Buffalo when Roy was drafted by the Sabres, formed a friendship and discovered a mutual love of fashion, which became a business prospect last year when Dombkiewicz, who was living in Los Angeles, met a few industry people, including Lee.

“Derek came into town to play the L.A. Kings, and I introduced him to some people working in fashion and an idea was born,” said Dombkiewicz.

Roy, in turn, brought on Napoli, another athlete with an interest in clothes, whom he had met in Dallas when Roy played for the Stars and Napoli for the Texas Rangers.

With Roy and Napoli currently in season with the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball — and thus unavailable for comment — Lee and Dombkiewicz are handling daily operations, including the collection’s capsule launch Tuesday. According to their press kit, Meden is “derived from the Middle English phrase ‘to reward one’s self,’” and was so chosen in reference to the founders’ modest upbringings, hard work and financial success — Roy and Napoli are more than silent investors in the collection. “Once they retire from their professional athletic teams, they want to focus on Meden, “ said Dombkiewicz.

Aesthetically, the collection adheres to a masculine-feminine duality, contrasting spare tailoring and sporty effects with soft draping, knits and strict yet feminine dresses. “I’m always interested in those opposites,” said Lee during a preview. “I wanted to play with textures, like cashmere and printed wool that’s a little rough.” An oversize black alpaca bomber is paired with a matching black pencil skirt, for example, and a neatly tailored gray coat has navy paneling.

Fabrics are sourced in Italy and the collection is produced in New York, which puts it at an advanced contemporary price point. Wholesale prices range from $395 for a skirt up to $895 for a coat, although Lee noted that he and his partners will focus on selling the first season through the label’s own e-commerce on meden.com before pursuing a wholesale strategy. A men’s collection is also in the plan, if not in the near term. Asked why it wasn’t the first order of business from four fashion-loving men, Dombkiewicz said, “Collectively, we felt strongly about being known as a women’s label.” Ladies first.

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