We recently launched our first collaboration with another streetwear brand, and not just any brand, with Champion®! So today we decided to tell you a little more about the brand that is slowly taking the current streetwear market by storm!
In the new Champion shop in downtown Philadelphia, the oversized red, white and blue "C" logo is everywhere: on the chest of thick cotton jumpers, on the sides of sweatpants and on the front of baseball caps. Twenty-somethings examine the racks at lunchtime. They drift down the aisles like stray billboards.
Jasmine Satchell has gone to a friend's house to buy a hoodie and personalise it. Already a fan of the brand, she wore a grey Champion hoodie and a dark blue beanie. "I obviously love the brand," said Satchell, pointing to the logo on her chest. "Anyone can wear Champion. My mother can represent Champion - and my grandmother can too. "
The century-old brand, best known for its core sportswear, is currently enjoying an unlikely revival. Champion is a benefactor of three swirling style trends that have converged to create a fashion craze among teenage girls and the millennial generation: logo clothing is in; streetwear - the casual style derived from skateboarding and sports culture - is exploding.
Parent company HanesBrands Inc. is certainly benefiting from this moment. The company has enjoyed 10 consecutive years of revenue growth, fuelled in part by the strength of Champion, its second brand. In his latest earnings call, HanesBrands chairman and CEO Gerald Evans Jr. said Champion was one of the three growth drivers for his apparel empire, the only label in his portfolio to achieve such recognition.
Champion posted double-digit growth during the holiday season, leading to the company's best fourth-quarter performance in four years. Teenagers in particular are paying attention to the label: 9% of boys and 5% of girls are starting to wear their clothes this summer, according to a recent Piper Jaffray survey. Teenage boys consider it a top 15 brand, alongside Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger. Last year, it had global sales of nearly $1.4 billion. The company hopes to capitalise on Champion's new cultural cachet and turn it into a $2 billion unit by 2022.
Susan Hennike, president of Champion's North American division, has been tasked with achieving this goal. She attributes Champion's rise in popularity to increased investment in social media, updated designs (including cutting-edge items such as cropped fleece jumpers), new physical locations and collaboration with other established brands. "There's been a recent discovery," Hennike says of the young people who move through its shops. "I don't think we've necessarily changed."
Since 2016, Champion's Instagram followers have grown from 200,000 to about 6 million. (Hennike says she even made the masochistic decision to read the comments to gauge her followers' thoughts). You can find Rihanna and members of the Kardashian clan wearing Champion in paparazzi photos and Instagram posts. Chance the Rapper went further last year, claiming during a live Instagram show that he helped make the brand "non-broadcast".
Champion was once well known for making equipment for football teams and college students, not celebrities. Knickerbocker Knitting Mills was founded in 1919 by Simon Feinbloom and his sons, Abe and Bill, in Rochester, New York, for wholesale. The brothers later renamed it Champion Knitwear Mills and turned to collegiate clothing.
After nearly a century without opening a single shop in America, Champion opened its first U.S. shop in Los Angeles last year, in an effort to gain more exposure in cities known for sports, arts and culture. They have since opened in New York, Boston and Chicago and plan to open another urban location later this year. The data collected in the shops allows the company to tell retail partners what is selling well and promote accordingly.
Consumers have recently embraced brands with long histories and classic logos. Fila, an Italian sporting goods brand, and Russell Athletic, a Kentucky-based company, have also experienced a recent resurgence. All of this has created a $100 billion market for streetwear in the US, driven primarily by teens and young adults, according to a 2018 PwC report. Nearly three-quarters of Generation Z wear the style, the firm found.
The secondary market, where streetwear fanatics buy and sell limited edition merchandise, is teeming with Champion products. On the luxury shop RealReal, his collaborations appear alongside vintage Hermès handbags, $45,000 Tiffany & Co. diamond bracelets and $3,000 Christian Louboutin red-soled pumps. The Sneakerhead marketplace, StockX, lists hundreds of different Champion products, with prices ranging from €50 caps to €400 jackets.
According to Jeff Carvalho, managing director of street fashion site Highsnobiety, these listings boost Champion's street cred, offering consumers an alternative to more expensive labels. Collaborations with streetwear brands Supreme, Vetements, Off White and Kith have given Champion access to some of the coolest brands on the planet. "The top and bottom of fashion can work together," he said. "Not everyone can buy a $300 hoodie."
The collaborations have introduced Champion to a whole new segment of shoppers, those who browse the largest luxury retail venues. The Champion line, made in collaboration with American fashion designer Todd Snyder, is sold on the Mr Porter website. The core brand can be found in Neiman Marcus and the London department stores' Selfridges. Currently, the brand is stocked online by 56 different US retailers, according to an analysis by retail research firm Edited. About 60% of the products listed are men's clothing.
At the Philadelphia shop, associates spoke with customers. Executives say the brand's multigenerational appeal is key, and the local flair does double duty: retro cool for teens and authentic nostalgia for adults.
"A lot of it has to do with our heritage and the fact that Champion has been around for so long," said Fred Washington, the Philadelphia shop manager, who was wearing a black Champion hoodie emblazoned with the brand name and the Liberty Bell. "We're able to capture millennials remembering their clothes from gym class. We are able to capture their parents and generations to come, as they have a long history with the brand. "
Yapheitt Stones was visiting the shop on his way home from physical therapy. It was the day before his 46th birthday and the brand reminded him of his teenage years. He had loved the brand since the late 1980s, he explained, or as he put it "since the beginning". He had a wardrobe with their jumpers and tracksuits.
"They have a lot more product than they used to. They have caps. And it's great that they're in Philadelphia now," Stones said as he showed off one of his purchases: a jersey depicting the city skyline with Champion's name swirling on it. "Champion is an all-time favorite."
We're also big fans of the brand and that's why our latest collaboration with Champion is so important to us! Check out our limited edition sweatshirts, hoodies, caps, tees & more. All produced in the USA in Atlanta of course!