Fashion’s obsession with all things 90s seems to be waning a bit, but not when it comes to athleisure. Athletic brands from the bygone era have made a huge impact on fashion today, and their revival has everything to do with changing dress codes. A rising demand for comfortable clothing puts athleisure offers front and center on the retail shelves and, in accordance to principles of supply and demand, plenty of brands have responded.
The revitalization of four 90s brands in particular – Champion, Reebok, Puma, and Fila – is rooted in mainstream collaborations with “It” brands of the moment (like Vetements) and partnerships with “It” girls like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. For a closer look at why these 90s athletic brands have made a comeback in 2017, continue reading below.
Champion’s baggy, oversized sweatshirts have proven to be an ideal canvas on which to project fashion dreams or combine with current trends. In 2012, Virgil Abloh of Off-White started his first clothing line, Pyrex Vision, by printing on blank Champion sweats, but kept the logo visible. Artist and fashion provocateur Ava Nirui has made a name for herself bootlegging Champion logos and other brands in cool mash-ups that explicitly comment on fashion’s penchant for appropriation.
Vetements is partially responsible for Champion’s resurgence, first by borrowing and reappropriating the Champion logo, and then later working with the brand in a legitimate collaboration. Champion has also worked with major streetwear labels like A Bathing Ape, Supreme, and Undefeated. Additionally, influencers like Kylie Jenner wore the retro 90s athletic brand for personal use, sparking increased interest in it.
Champion’s global brand ambassador Manny Martinez made an important distinction about the brand’s revival, telling Esquire, “When you see Kylie Jenner wearing the brand on her own, it’s not because it’s a collab. You see people wearing it because it’s Champion. That’s the beauty of it.”
With a major rebranding effort, a re-release of key archival products like the ‘Classic Freestyle Hi’, and campaigns starring popular personalities like Gigi Hadid, Kendrick Lamar, and Rick Ross, Reebok has made a roaring comeback. An exclusive collaboration with Vetements also helped boost Reebok’s signal, targeting youthful shoppers who emulate style influencers like Kylie Jenner. As a subsidiary of Adidas, the reboot of Reebok is part of the parent company’s attempt to steal the spotlight back from Nike. So far, so good.
In the 90s, all the cool kids wore Puma, and the concept of cool has been revived again with the courtship of major fashion icon Rihanna. Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma collections have proven to be both sartorially savvy and instantly covetable, causing internet-wide sell-outs of her furry slides and creeper sneakers. It has also expanded to include collaborations with The Weeknd and Young Thug. In fact, the brand’s efforts at revitalization have been so effective that it has switched places in the sportswear market with its biggest competitor Under Armour, with Puma snagging the top spot.
Fila represents an instance where the streets informed the brand’s renewed popularity as street-style kids started sporting throwback Fila jerseys, which inevitably caught the notice of international branding and lifestyle specialists. Suddenly, Fila was everywhere, thanks in part to collaborations with Russian “It” designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, retailer Urban Outfitters, and NYC-based luxury brand Baja East.
In particular, Fila’s partnership with Rubchinskiy has become a huge selling point for the brand. Marina Larroude, Fashion Director at Barneys New York, told Glossy, “Fila lent its heritage to a cool new brand, while Gosha gave Fila the refresh they needed.” And it was this factor that led to constant sell-outs, calling for multiple restocks at Fila retailers around the world.