The fans started lining up around 9 a.m. Wednesday at Modell’s on Cottman Avenue. They were there to see Mike Vick introduce his new clothing line. Even though they were instructed that Vick wouldn’t be posing for photos, they couldn’t resist.
They shouted. They screamed. They pleaded. And when a store representative pointed to the woman he bought the first T-shirt off the rack, Vick immediately pulled her aside for an intimate photo op.
“I love you, Mike,” she shouted.
“I love you, too,” Vick shouted back.
Vick was there to showcase his V7 signature collection, a sports apparel line that was conceived and designed by the Eagles quarterback. The full V7 line — which is being sold exclusively at Modell's — will be unveiled July 22 on the store's website, with a Fall collection due out in November. Part of the sales will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of
“I don’t want to reveal too much,” Vick said. “The most important thing right now is to get this out there to my fans and, as time goes on, I’m going to continue to keep my eyes on the prize, which is having success on the football field. I think that correlates to my off-the-field success — just for my legacy, for my brand. I think this is an awesome opportunity for me.”
Of course, re-establishing Vick’s personal brand has been a mission for No. 7 since being released from prison in May 2009. It was a long climb, but he seems to be back at the top of the mountain. Vick signed an endorsement deal with Nike last summer and recently got married to longtime girlfriend Kijafa Frink. According to The Wall Street Journal, Vick has restored his brand 65-75 percent since leaving prison.
“It’s amazing to be here,” said Frink, who stuck by Vick while he was in prison. “We went through a few rough years in our lives so to even be here today, and to have a clothing line, it’s something that we never thought about four years ago and here it is. I’m extremely proud of him. This is the most excited I’ve seen him about anything since coming back
Aside from his football pads, it’s hard to find Vick walking around the Eagles’ locker room in anything other than a T-shirt. He’s a casual dresser, mostly athletic wear, which makes sense for a professional athlete. Yet the idea for a clothing line was entirely his own, with a little help from fashion mogul Ruby Azrak and talent agent Brian Sher. The trio approached Modell’s about collaborating on an apparel line and the sporting goods store listened.
“Michael showed up at our office and he looked so passionate about what he wanted to do that I said, you know what, why don’t we see if we can work together on a line where he designs it, with his thought process, and how he wanted to see his image and, you know what, it was consistent in the way we saw it,” said Mitchell Modell, Chief Executive Officer for Modell’s. “At the end of the day, when [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell gave him a second chance and a blessing, we thought why can’t we?”
From day one, Vick was a hands-on part of the design process. He also was vocal about keeping costs down (the line ranges from $12.99 for kids gear to $19.99 for adults).
“He designed everything from the tag ... on how the name tag is, with the V7 signature collection ... to the taping in the neck to the taping in the shorts,” explained Modell. “We were blown away. I didn’t even know that he knew this much about apparel. But, you know what, this is what he wants to wear and this is what he feels is going to be good for the kids.”
Frink, who co-owns PNK Elephant, an accessory boutique located on South Street, said she’s noticed her husband’s increasing fashion sense. The couple is constantly bouncing ideas of each other — and sometimes, he’ll even give her advice on what to wear.
“He’s like, ‘Hey babe, do you like this? Does this go well?' He asked me should he wear that shirt this morning,” Frink said. “He always asks for my opinion and vice versa, I always want his. I’m like, ‘Babe, do you think this bag looks good?' And he’s like, ‘I don’t know babe, I think you should wear that one.’”
Vick’s brand is one thing, but re-storing his tarnished image could have been a reality show entitled, “Extreme Makeover: NFL Edition.” Judging by the lines that wrapped around the block at both the Cottman Avenue and Snyder Avenue Modell’s stores Wednesday afternoon, it seems Vick has succeeded in that regard as well. Vick complied willingly, too. He stuck around to grant an autograph to every fan who wanted one, including an impromptu request from his daughter, Jada.
“These people right here, behind me, make it possible,” said Vick, pointing to his public relations team, which he dubbed Team Vick, as well as children from the Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia. “I never thought I’d be a fashion designer, but one thing I do realize is, that with the right people around you, you can put the thoughts together to make it all happen. To make it easier for you, you know. I’m not the smartest guy in the world. I can’t do everything. I don’t know the answers to everything but, collectively as a group, when you put the right people in place, it makes all things possible.”
Frink, who grew up in North Philadelphia, is still amazed how her hometown has embraced him. At first, she had her doubts.
“When he first got picked to come here, I thought, ‘This might not be good.’ This is a rough sports town,” she said. “But when he first came, the reception was so amazing … we would go to a restaurant and people would stand up and clap … I was like, ‘Is this my city? Really? That is showing this much love …”
Sure, there were a few organized protests when the Eagles shocked the world, in August 2009, and signed Vick after his two-year hiatus from the NFL for dogfighting. But all in all, it’s been a match made in football heaven — maybe one that will culminate in the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship.
“It would mean so much to win a Super Bowl here, and that’s why I work as hard as I do,” Vick said. “We understand what’s at stake. We know and we’re excited about it. That’s what it’s all about, that’s what the NFL is.”