A sports and street wear brand that is gaining attention around the world will have its New Zealand launch in Whanganui.
Fabian Soutar, who was born and raised in Whanganui, established Mantis Sportswear in Australia about four years ago.
The former professional rugby league player, who played for the Junior Warriors and Mt Albert before a contract with Brisbane Easts took him to Australia, operates the company from his Queensland base, designing and supplying clothing and accessories such as caps and bags.
His mother, Whanganui's Carla Jayne Smith, who is a partner in the New Zealand side of the business, said Soutar had no formal art training but had been an artist since he was about 14.
"He's also a qualified builder but has always had a passion to do art," Smith said.
"He can bring his art to life in graphic form and now he is designing customised sports and street wear and also mentors kids to teach them how to draw."
Soutar's designs have included team gear for clients in Hawaii, Tahiti, Hong Kong and China but most of his work has been for Australian customers. However, the New Zealand market was taking off faster than expected.
"Fabian is very proud to see local teams wearing his gear," Smith said.
"He sponsored the Cullinane College touch team and has done designs for the BrooklynsLove Foundation touch tournament, Boxon rugby league, caps for Mustangs softball team and limited edition gear for rangitahi for the Ratana 100 years celebration.
"He also designed the gear for Te Matapihi kapa haka group. We are from Kaiwhaiki on the Whanganui River so that was very appropriate.
"He's done design work for construction businesses as well. He's been a builder and a professional athlete so he understands what's needed and how clothes will feel when they're wearing them."
The New Zealand launch of Mantis Sportswear will be at Ngā Tai o te Awa, 142 Guyton St, at 5pm-7pm on Friday, January 18. It will include information about the design process and a demonstration of how Soutar develops an idea into the final product. Samples will be available to view.
People who would like to attend the launch should visit the Mantis Sportswear Facebook page and select "Going" on the launch event listing.