Wilson makes just about every piece of sports gear, but most people just think of its volleyballs. (Sure, it doesn’t help that it markets a Cast Away-themed Tom Hanks best friend, but how do you not cash in on that?) But one can only sell so many movie-tie-in replicas before society hits a saturation point. That apparently happened on Monday, May 24, when the century-old Chicago company announced its entry into the lifestyle apparel space. Welcome, , which is available online in the U.S. and China immediately.
“We are excited to extend our craftsmanship, history and heritage to apparel,” said Gordon Devin, president of Wilson Sportswear, in a release. “As athletes continue to redefine themselves, Wilson is redefining the athletes’ uniform, coupling the premium performance expected from Wilson with fresh styles inspired by athletes.”
Is is activewear? Athleisure? Hype-beast catnip? Yes to all. In its release, the company claimed that it had tapped a roster of more than 10,000 athletes, entrepreneurs, and teaching pros to provide input into the line’s launch and development. While 20-some men’s pieces are already live, bi-weekly “drops,” which should hint at the mindset, are en route, which will pull from this list of its myriad community members for partnerships and activations. Instagram influencer Beija Velez, musician Kelley James, and nonprofit CEO Jahmal Cole are only a few of those the company has contracted.
Wilson’s move into the fashion sphere should be no surprise; Champion Sportswear, which also has a century under its belt, launched its wildly successful collaboration with Todd Snyder in 2013, and since then has only expanded and splintered the line, leading to further fashion collabs (Rick Owens, Craig Green, and BEAMS, among others) as well as Champion x Snyder sub-collabs with PRIDE, Peanuts, and Brooklyn Circus. If Wilson can tap into a fraction of the traction Champion has already earned, it would be a massive success, along with vital diversification of its brand.
This should be a big year for Wilson, which concurrently announced its plans for brick-and-mortar locations around the world, including Chicago, New York, Beijing, Shanghai. Besides its Sportswear line, shoppers will also be able to browse a curated amount of its sports gear. The company hasn’t yet announced openings for any of these locations.
While Wilson Sportswear’s full line is worth a peek (check out the 001 lookbook here), two pieces especially caught our eye. The first is its , an athletically fit jogger with cargo pockets. Cut from a thin woven synthetic with a ton of stretch, it’s the perfect weight for summertime casual activities. The other is the . This curiosity suggests vintage athletic attire and old-timey strongmen, but its distinction comes through subtlety: a banded collar and half-zip placket with a modern, loose fit. It’s bold but not loud.
Big companies are susceptible to inertia: It can take forever to modernize. But once the gears are moving, it’s equally as difficult to stop. For Wilson, with a hundred years behind it, its Sportswear line is a long time in coming. But now that it’s here, we can’t wait to see what it produces next.
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