As with every Wimbledon Tennis season, locals are always excited at the prospect of spotting the players walking around SW19 when they’re not on the court. But there is one individual who stands out among the crowd, maybe even more than the players… Lady Wimbledon talks to Chris Fava, famously known as Wimbledon’s Strawberry Man!
Every year during the Championships, Chris Fava wears a different costume – designed by him – to create a comical juxtaposition and break Wimbledon traditions with a little light relief. This year, on July 7th, watching the Men’s Singles, he revealed himself dressed as Centre Court, wrapped in astro-turf grass, wearing a brilliant bright green head netted headpiece, and with a white stripe running down his face and costume. He has appeared on HSBC billboards, in The Telegraph and on Good Morning Britain, but his success story begins in 2013.
LW: What made you come to Wimbledon?
CF: In 2013 I had just quit my nine to five job and decided no more! I saved some money and booked a one-way ticket to Paris. I went to the French opening and then decided to go to Wimbledon. I thought to myself that I enjoy dressing up and Wimbledon is so traditional, what a funny juxtaposition that would be.
What was your first idea?
I went to the costume store and wanted something to stand out. I got an orange one-piece suit but the cashier woman offered me a one-piece cloud costume instead. We looked but my size wasn’t there! So I settled for the orange suit. But when I went to the front, the customer behind me was returning the cloud costume in my size! If none of those things were in place, we wouldn’t be here now.
What gave you the idea of Strawberry Man?
Strawberry Man began in 2016. I said to myself that’s it… Mr Sunshine took so much out of me, there were so many different pieces to it so it wasn’t my favourite costume. I wanted the most simplest possible costume that I have ever done and it would take a week or two to put together. I thought everyone was going to hate it!
In 2017 did you bring Strawberry Man back?
It was always confusing on what to do after Strawberry Man because Strawberry Man was huge. I thought to myself, ‘Do I continue to do Strawberry Man for all the year to come?’ That was a very real possibility. But for me I decided that I was a creative person so I needed to do new things.
How do you manage to work and make your costumes at the same time?
I would still do freelance design, but now it’s about the health and wellness business I own that started off because of the tennis. I’ve been working on it for the past few years and I wanted it to be different. I was skeptical at the beginning but it turned out amazing.
What gave you inspiration for the hawk?
2017 was Rufus the Hawk. My friends told me that you have to be Rufus. He’s the hawk that flies around Wimbledon in the early morning and gets rid of the pigeons! I was initially going to be a pigeon but my friends convinced me to be the Hawk. After that I needed to top Rufus, so I became the Trophy Man.
What inspired you for your big reveal?
From 3 years ago I always envisioned a stripe going straight through me while sitting on centre court. Right after Trophy Man, I drew it and I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like. I just had to add the details that made it stand out. I needed to push it over the edge, and push it over the edge again, and again! At the moment Trophy Man and Strawberry Man are in the Wimbledon Museum. Strawberry Man is in the archives set for something in the near future, but people can still go and see Trophy Man.
OK. But why do you do this?
In the beginning I did it on a whim and for the juxtaposition. After a while I started thinking that I wanted to challenge myself more. What could I do next? I’d have to outdo the year before in my head. I thought to myself, what if this could become a tradition? It was a far off feeling that If I kept doing it you never know what could happen. You might as well push yourself and keep doing it. I was learning a lot about myself, my capabilities and the pressure I could handle.
What would be your advice to others who want to get creative outside the box?
Don’t listen to the voices in your head that are telling you that you can’t. There’s going to be so many excuses that your brain is making up to stop you from doing something. It’s probably because you’re afraid, and it’s ok to be afraid, but you’re supposes to feel that and do it anyway!
What’s your next big plan?
I love to write poetry and I’ve written little stories. I love kids and my dream really is to write kids books. I already have one written about a shooting star, and I want to give all these characters that I’ve created their own story books. I want to inspire adults and children, since there are a lot of lessons that I’ve learned in each year that I want to put in these books. Be your absolute self no matter what and have confidence in yourself.
We had a lot of fun last year in Wimbledon Village together, I hope we get a chance to play on your court.
Click here for more information on Chris Fava.
Written By: Eyes of Lady Wimbledon | Editor
Twitter: @EyesOf LadyW
Featured Image | Credit: @Radka