May 28, 2021
Wilson Sporting Goods, the 108-year old sports equipment maker, is introducing its first lifestyle apparel collection and opening its first stores to support the launch.
The Wilson Sportswear range “signals the evolution of Wilson into its next phase as a household athletic lifestyle brand,” according to a statement. Sitting at “intersection of sport, fashion and culture,” the performance range takes its inspiration from Wilson’s heritage spanning team sports, tennis and golf. These days, Wilson is particularly known for its tennis rackets and baseball gloves. Wilson has been the NFL’s official football brand since 1941.
The initial collection of sweatshirts, joggers, shorts, polos and skirts fulfills athleisure’s promise in offering enough performance attributes, such as such as anti-microbial properties, for an athlete to use playing their favorite sport or working out, but also being stylish enough to wear off the playing field and outside the gym.
“We really set out to blur the lines of fashion and function — and solve for both,” Wilson Lifestyle head of design Joelle Michaeloff told V Magazine.
The initial range will be sold exclusively at Wilson.com in the U.S., and via WeChat and other sites in China.
To drive buzz, Wilson will drop new items bi-weekly and is planning special collaborations around “key moments in sport culture.” Later this year, Wilson will open its first-ever stores in Chicago, New York, Beijing and Shanghai to showcase not only the sportswear but sports equipment.
Wilson is also extending its Advisory Staff network of more than 10,000 professional athletes, coaches and teaching pros to include tastemakers such as artists, musicians and activists. Phillip Leyesa, a sneaker customizer and new Advisory Staff member, said, “The styles are modern, versatile and can easily take anyone from the field to everyday life.”
Wilson appears to be taking a page from sports brands such as Nike, Adidas, Champion and Fila in tapping collaborations and conducting limited-edition drops to generate buzz and fashion cachet. Gordon Devin, president of Wilson Sportswear, told WWD, “We want to own Saturday and Sunday.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see Wilson Sports’ launch of a lifestyle sportswear collection and physical stores as a natural progression or a stretch? Do you see more brands, particularly in categories such as apparel, taking the dual approach of traditional wholesale relations and operating consumer-direct businesses?
“They have been sleeping on their iconic brand name for over 100 years. I think they’re finally ready to make this smart play.”