It takes a brave man to leave the confines of AFL football and enter into the female fashion industry, but that’s exactly what Craig Ellis has done.
The former Bulldog and Demon is selling bikini swimwear with his fiancée Erin Deering, building the successful business Triangl from the ground up over in Hong Kong.
Ellis played 122 games for the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne between 1994 and 2002 in a career riddled with injury, calling time after one season with the Demons at the age of just 27.
Featured during Channel Seven’s AFL coverage, Ellis – who was described by close friend Luke Darcy as always being “fairly fashion forward” – says injuries took their toll at the end of his career, but he has great memories from his time in the AFL.
“When you’re younger, you can run and jump but then that gets taken away from you through injuries and surgery, and it becomes harder to play the way you want to. That became a bit frustrating in the end,” Ellis says.
“But footy’s a great thing for a young kid to be involved in, and it teaches you a lot of skills on and off the field. I think the friendships out of footy have been the most valuable thing to me.”
Post his League career, the recently turned 40-year-old has worked as a pilot, clothing designer, and entrepreneur with varying degrees of success.
He had a t-shirt label with a former teammate, which experienced some early success before eventually losing its way, before the idea for Tringle came up just after he met his future wife at a beach in South Melbourne.
“After I met Erin, it was actually our second date and we went to a beach in Half Moon Bay. Erin went around looking for a bikini that morning, so when she finally arrived at the beach she said it’s unbelievably hard to find a nice bikini.
“When you’re younger, you can run and jump but then that gets taken away from you and it becomes harder to play the way you want to” – Craig Ellis
“I was working in design at the time and I said didn’t quite understand it as well. Most of the bikinis are really expensive and it’s a small bit of fabric. One day we thought, ‘stuff it, let’s just quit our jobs and give it a crack’.”
Nowadays, Triangl is a million-dollar enterprise, selling more than 2,000 bikinis a day internationally. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
Breaking into the industry in Hong Kong was tough. Living off canned soup in a small apartment and making every dollar count was a challenge but, having failed in a similar venture before, Ellis didn’t lose sight of the dream and eventually got together enough money and interest in their products.
Now living the high-life, with a baby boy born earlier in the year and a recent move to Monaco, Ellis has no regrets and says he won’t be taking it for granted anytime soon.
“We’ve been fortunate now where we’ve been rewarded by the success of the brand and that’s allowing us to do other great things like photo shoots in different countries and locations, which really help the brand as well.
“These days we get to see a lot of the world, and have an amazing job and company. We get to live an amazing lifestyle, so everyday I’m just really grateful for what we’ve got.
“Most of those times when I fell on my face, those were the most valuable lessons and where I grew the most as a person, I reckon, so I wouldn’t change anything.”