Building Brand Lochte

Olympian Ryan Lochte has parlayed his success in London into front-row seats at New York Fashion Week. And that's just the beginning. Rebecca Dana on his upcoming menswear collection, reality-TV projects—and a line of bedding.

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You may not be able to sleep with Ryan Lochte, the Olympic swimmer and ubiquitous grinning presence at New York Fashion Week. But pretty soon, you might be able to sleep on him.

The 28-year-old 11-time Olympic medalist is in talks to develop a line of Lochte-branded bedding made out of a moisture-resistant fabric similar to that of dry-fit workout clothes, according to his manager Erika Wright. And that’s not all. If everything goes as planned, the next year will see the rollout of a sprawling multimedia Empire of Ryan, with extensions into fashion, fitness, entertainment, protective sunwear, sheets, and beyond.

Between covering runway shows for E! and clubbing till the wee hours in the Meatpacking District, Lochte has spent New York Fashion Week, which concludes Thursday, busily building Brand Ryan. He attended 17 events, including wardrobe fittings, during the first three days of Fashion Week, according to a copy of his official schedule. These included the Joseph Abboud, Rebecca Minkoff, and Sherri Hill fashion shows. He filmed a cameo for NBC’s 30 Rock and did guest appearances on Live! With Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan and on Good Day New York. He attended Fashion’s Night Out, was booked to attend a Details party on Saturday night and interviewed both Donald Trump and Miss USA. (He has also turned down countless invitations, his manager, Erika Wright, says.)

In the last week, Wright says, Lochte has reached out to licensing and manufacturing companies with an eye toward releasing his own line of menswear next year. He has begun to assemble a design team, which he will lead. (There is already a line of Lochte sunglasses available for purchase, and though he plans to launch with menswear only, he may expand into women’s clothing in years to come.) “He doesn’t have a huge background in fashion, but he has a very big passion for it,” she says.

In this, Lochte (and his management team) will seek to avoid repeating the fate of America’s greatest swimming superstar, Michael Phelps, who came home a hero from the 2008 Olympics only to get booted from his Wheaties box for smoking pot. Lochte and Co. may like to party—as a recent swim race against Prince Harry may attest—but no one is being careless. They are determined to make these 15 minutes last.

Along with his team, Lochte has met with producers from Warner Bros. and Ryan Seacrest Productions about possible film and television projects. He is releasing his own line of workout DVDs. He met with Lionsgate Fitness about doing videos for their YouTube channel, his manager Erika Wright says, and he has received an offer from one major network to do a reality show that would follow him as he trains for the summer Olympics in 2016.

A number of professional athletes have lent their name to fashion brands, from Air Jordans to David Beckham’s line of underwear for H&M. Few have attempted to be not just the face but also the creative spirit behind the clothing. Among them: Venus Williams, who partnered with Steve and Barry’s to release her own line of men’s and women’s apparel called EleVen, and her sister Serena, whose line is called Aneres.

Lochte ducked out of town over the weekend to visit his newborn nephew and present a $25,000 check, courtesy of Gillette, to his first swim club, Daytona Beach Speed Swimming. He is due back in New York Tuesday to continue his harrowing schedule of fashion shows, parties, and business meetings. Any fashion editor will tell you it takes discipline and stamina to make it through all these parties and shows. Wright attributes Lochte’s endurance to his “happy, friendly outlook on life” and also to his many years of rigorous Olympic training, as good a preparation as any for Fashion Week.