By Kenny Soto
There are few fictional characters as loved around the world as Harry Potter and his friends from Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling’s famous book series has spawned movies, theme parks, clothing lines, and even a Muggle adaptation of the wizard sport Quidditch, which a global community of collegiate athletes has embraced wholeheartedly.
Since its inception in 2007, the Quidditch World Cup has grown from a yearly match between two New England-based colleges into a competition that includes teams from 27 states and at least four countries. While the sport has its roots in a fantasy world, Quiyk, the official clothing company of the Quidditch World Cup, was started right here in Boston by two Emerson College students.
Matt Lowe and Eric Wahl, Quiyk’s co-founders, are not your stereotypical Quidditch players: They don’t wear robes or carry around homemade magic wands. They don’t write fan fiction or have their girlfriends draw lightning bolts on their heads. In fact, they don’t even like Harry Potter. “I think we’re more fans of the sporting aspect,” said Lowe.
“People dismiss Quidditch because they think it’s just a Harry Potter sport, and only people who like Harry Potter can play it, but it’s a great game,” said Wahl. “It’s full-contact, and it’s a really fun sport.”
And last summer, the pair’s passion for the sport became the catalyst for the company that has become the Nike of Quidditch apparel.
“We realized that there was a lot of hype around [Quidditch] and that it was growing, but there wasn’t really anything there in terms of standardization to support the growth,” Lowe said. “We started brainstorming and coming up with ideas, and we said, ‘Why can’t we be the guys to make this happen?’”
Since the first items -- T-shirts, shorts, and “snitch gear” -- launched at the 2011 Quidditch World Cup in November, the demand has been higher than anyone expected. But despite their early triumphs, Wahl and Lowe haven’t let the success go to their heads. Their next goals for the brand include adding sweatshirts to their product line and moving production to southern California. “Made in America is really important to us,” Lowe said.
“We sold out of a few items at the World Cup, and we’re still scrambling to fill orders,” he said. “We know that there is a market for Quiyk, but above all, we want to keep learning and keep improving so that we can put out the best-quality products.”
Although it’s been smooth sailing thus far for Quiyk, the possibility exists that Warner Brothers, owners of the Harry Potter franchise, will one day decide to shut the company down.
“Warner Brothers owns the trademarks on everything Quidditch-related, from cufflinks to baby diapers,” Lowe said. “But we’re not a Quidditch company -- we’re a company that makes athletic gear that customers use for Quidditch, just like Reebok makes clothing for football or Nike makes clothing for basketball.”
Even with the potential for a lawsuit looming, Quiyk has pressed on and continues to grow.
“We have a relationship with the IQA [International Quidditch Association], and we’re letting them fight that battle,” Lowe said. “We try to stay out of it. Our goal is to help Quidditch grow, and that’s it.”
One thing is for sure: For as long as the sport of Quidditch is around, the Quiyk “snitch tail” is here to stay.
“It was really fun watching the World Cup and seeing 40 snitches running around wearing our tail,” Lowe said. “If we’ve made one contribution to the world of Quidditch, that is definitely it.”
About Kenny -- I'm a professional blogger and entertainer. In my spare time, I enjoy Boston sports and exploring all of the adventures that my hometown has to offer. You can connect with me on Twitter @RealKennySoto.
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