HOMER — Who knew when Kathy Sarns put her gold rush license plate design on 50 bike jerseys in 2003 to see if they’d sell that her jerseys were destined for Hollywood?
No one, that’s who. Including Sarns.
If you’ve seen “This is 40,” starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann and Albert Brooks, you’ve seen Sarns’ “California” shirt. In fact, if you’ve seen the movie advertised on TV, you might have caught a scene where Rudd is wearing the shirt.
Anyone familiar with Sarns’ jerseys, jackets and other apparel sold through her company, Free Spirit Wear, will quickly recognize her signature bold colors and design.
“They contacted us, said they had seen the jersey and asked if they could buy it and use it in the movie,” said a laughing Sarns of contact with the movie’s representatives. “They were super nice. The lady kept saying, ‘We’ll let you know. It looks like (Rudd) really likes the jersey. If we can, it’ll be in the movie.’”
Sure enough, it is.
The movie opened in theaters during the Christmas holiday. It wasn’t long before Sarns received messages from people who had seen the jersey.
“We started getting contact from friends on the East Coast that had seen it. Oh my gosh, I’d forgotten. It was a year ago we sold it to them,” said Sarns.
The week’s opening date put it against such tough competition as the top box office draw, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and, in second place, “Jack Reacher” with Tom Cruise. While “This is 40” didn’t share that level of popularity, it still opened at $30.7 million, according to CNN Entertainment. However, when film representatives first contacted Sarns, they told her “they were on a budget,” she said. “They bought a couple (jerseys) for Paul Rudd to try on and sent one back and I thought, wow, I guess maybe they are on a strict budget.”
Out of the goodness of her business heart, Sarns sold the bike jersey to the film at a discount. The payback? She’s enjoying some silver screen advertising.
“You never know. In the long run any publicity is good publicity,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Sarns’ creations have received a broad showing. One of her jerseys also was used in the NBC series, “Chuck,” that starred Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski.
“That was a year or two ago, but people keep seeing it in reruns,” said Sarns.
And that’s not all. Sarns, her husband, Pat Irwin, and friends are in “Reveal The Path,” a film about cycling around the world and directed by Mike Dion. A Rotten Tomato review of the film calls it “a visually stunning adventure by bike ... that explores the world’s playgrounds in Europe’s snow-capped mountains, Scotland’s lush valleys, Alaska’s rugged coastal beaches and Morocco’s high desert landscapes.”
“They ended the movie from Clam Gulch to Homer and Pat and I were their guides,” said Sarns. “We made sure to wear a couple different jerseys. A couple of friends came along and we persuaded them to wear the Alaska jersey.” The film will be shown in Homer on Feb. 28 at Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, kicking off the Big Fat Bike Festival, March 1-3.
Last weekend, Sarns was in Soldotna, helping teach ski coaches how to teach skiing. What was she wearing? Free Spirit Wear, of course.
Expanded beyond the initial gold rush pattern, Sarns’ bike jerseys now come in more than 70 different designs. Some were suggested by Facebook contacts. Some have been developed in support of nonprofits. The most frequently requested foreign sites are Israel and Croatia, but Sarns has yet to design apparel for any location outside the United States.
“It seems like we’ve got so much going on,” she said, still laughing. “It’s pretty exciting.”