Sparkling Na­dine Mer­abi is the queen of the cat­walk

Claire Mid­dle­ton talks to the for­mer ju­nior hockey star now mak­ing head­lines in the fash­ion world

The Hockey Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

WHILE her for­mer in­ter­na­tional team-mates have en­joyed their golden mo­ment on the pitch, Na­dine Mer­abi has been en­joy­ing glit­ter­ing mo­ments on the cat­walk.

An ex-Eng­land Un­der-21 striker, Mer­abi has ditched ly­cra for se­quins and be­come an in­ter­na­tional fash­ion de­signer. From tack­ling the GB stars, she now dresses them.

And it all started, she says with a bin-bag and some scis­sors while on an Un­der-21 train­ing week­end in Lille­shall.

“We were given a team bonding chal­lenge, and told to make a dress from a black sack, some scis­sors and a bit of mask­ing tape,” she says.

“Ob­vi­ously most of the other girls did the min­i­mum but I went for the full corset look and was pretty pleased with my­self – and I guess that’s when I thought I might quite like do­ing this.”

It’s a long way from a bit of fun at Lille­shall to em­ploy­ing eight staff and send­ing frocks all over the world. But Mer­abi has acted on her quick wit, her re­bel­lious na­ture and speed on her feet to be­come a re­spected de­signer in an ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive world. Much as she did as a player, to be fair.

“Dids­bury was my first club where Bar­bara Walsh, Kate’s mum, was coach,” she said. “She al­ready had Kate and her sis­ter Rachel in the car so she sort of took me un­der her wing be­cause two or three hang­ing around made no dif­fer­ence.

“I then went to Bow­don Hightown, again with Kate and Rachel, and got in­volved with Eng­land Un­der-16, Un­der-18 and Un­der-21.”

She was good enough to make the Ju­nior World Cup team in 2001, go­ing to Ar­gentina as vice-cap­tain along­side Kate and fel­low gold medal­list Alex Dan­son.

So, her hockey cre­den­tials are im­pres­sive.

Aca­demic life took her to Bath Univer­sity where she stud­ied sport de­vel­op­ment and coach­ing – quite why, she’s not sure now – and joined Clifton, while also play­ing for the univer­sity un­der Bobby Crutch­ley, now the Eng­land men’s coach.

“He was like a men­tor to me and when I saw him re­cently he said he thought I had al­ways wanted to do some­thing more cre­ative than play sport,” she says.

“I think peo­ple saw that in me be­fore I saw it my­self but I guess I was al­ways a bit of a rebel, al­ways get­ting in a bit of trou­ble.”

Af­ter univer­sity she re­turned to Manch­ester and also to Hightown, where she took her first steps in cloth­ing de­sign. She laughs.

“We got spon­sored kit and I said if we were go­ing to be spon­sored we should look good, so Tem­pest let me de­sign our play­ing out­fits,” she said.

“Of course I printed ‘Bow­don’ on our bums – sex sells in hockey you know – and I en­joyed do­ing it.”

Her first con­scious move into fash­ion came when she got fed up with be­ing un­able to find things to wear. Let’s face it, that’s some­thing prac­ti­cally ev­ery woman feels most of the time, but we don’t all set about do­ing some­thing about it.

She says: “I got frus­trated and I thought: ‘It can’t be that hard to make a dress,’ so I bought a sewing ma­chine and looked on YouTube to see how it worked.

“Then, about five years ago in De­cem­ber I hired a rail in a pop-up shop for £120 a week, made my first col­lec­tion and found that by the end of the month all 20 of them had sold out. That was pretty amaz­ing be­cause I hadn’t mas­tered zips at that point so none of my dresses had any – they were all pull-on, stretchy things.

“That Jan­uary, Brooke Vin­cent, one of the ac­tresses in Corona­tion Street, called me out of the blue and wanted to wear one of my dresses to the Na­tional TV Awards. She was on the front page of lots of the pa­pers and from then on it’s been men­tal.”

That chance call then led to an­other com­mu­ni­ca­tion and an­other steep learn­ing curve – this time from Sel­fridges, in Lon­don.

“They said they wanted to see some sam­ples and could I come to head of­fice. I put all my dresses – about 10 – in a bag and went in there,” she said. “They said they’d like 80 of this and 100 of that and when could I de­liver them.

“I pan­icked and said three months. They said that was per­fect. At that stage I didn’t even have pa­per pat­terns, I just cut them out free­hand on my floor, and I had no idea about man­u­fac­tur­ing. I had to get to grips with it all pretty quick.”

When we speak, she has just come out of a meet­ing with an­other Cor­rie ac­tress, Cather­ine Tyldes­ley, and with the party sea­son in full swing, life has been pretty full on.

The Great Britain women’s goldmedal suc­cess has en­abled Mer­abi to catch up with her for­mer team­mates, dress­ing most of them for the Golden Hockey Ball at Tower Bridge ear­lier this month. You would also have spot­ted Mer­abi frocks on Sam Quek, when she left the celebrity jun­gle, while Ge­orgie Twigg and Kate Richard­son-Walsh sported them in front of the mil­lion watch­ing the BBC’s Sports Per­son­al­ity of the Year.

The good news is that Mer­abi is not lost com­pletely to sport for she has vowed to play sum­mer hockey at Bow­don in 2017. For now, though, fash­ion is her pri­or­ity.

“I have no re­grets,” she says. “I loved hockey at the time but I was happy to put down my stick when I had the chance to be more cre­ative.

“It’s been great see­ing so many of the girls again and it’s been fab­u­lous dress­ing them and feel­ing like I’m giv­ing some­thing back.”

Mer­abi has acted on her quick wit, her re­bel­lious na­ture and speed on her feet to be­come a re­spected de­signer

Model player: Na­dine Mer­abi’s de­signs are af­ford­able, red-car­pet glam­our

Stylish: Na­dine Mer­abi in 2008 play­ing for Bow­don

Big night out: Mer­abi, right, hangs out with the stars such as Hollyoaks ac­tress Steph Davies

Glitzy: It started with a bin­bag and a pair of scis­sors

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