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Rise Of The Independents Fila Taps Urban Roots

THIS PAGE: Jacobi McLemore wearing Fila 96's (left) and Philip Post wearing Fila Spaghetti's (right), are both young, independent streetwear designers, featured in Fila Profiles to introduce a younger generation to the Fila brand. Photo courtesy Fila. ON THE COVER: At a recent interview with Fila, hip hop producer Chase N. Cashe talked about his love of Fila product while wearing a fresh laced pair of Fila 95's. To read the full article, log on to Photo courtesy Jessica Lehrman and Fila.




OF THE INDEPENDENTS Fila Taps Urban Roots By Thomas J. Ryan

To some, Fila’s heritage is directly linked to the sport of tennis, and legends such as Björn Borg and Boris Becker. With the brand founded by the Fila brothers in Italy’s Alps in 1911, for others the name speaks to its Italian design aesthetic, and the history of mountaineering and skiing in the Alps. But to many consumers who came of age in the nineties, the name Fila harkens back to old-school urban culture and hiphop. With the launch of Fila’s new website – standing for ‘Fila Is…” Fila is looking to reconnect with its heritage, and also introduce a new generation of younger consumers to the Fila name. Jennifer Estabrook, Fila’s EVP, business operations, said the launch of comes as Fila is making a bigger push around its Basketball Heritage collection with footwear trends shifting from running to basketball, and 90s retro styles from Nike, Adidas, Reebok, as well as Fila undergoing a resurgence. To chase the opportunity, Louis W. Colon, III, founder of sneakerhead magazine Kicksclusive and the former founder/ owner of Laces Boutique, a women’s sneaker store in SoHo, has been hired as Fila’s director of Heritage product and marketing. A string of Fila’s retro styles have been brought back to market to a strong reception, beginning with the March relaunch of Jerry Stackhouse’s signature ‘Spaghettis’ shoe from 1995; followed by the Grant Hill II comeback in April and the Grant Hill I relaunch on September19. Reissues also include the Fila Cage, Fila Original Fitness and Fila F-13. Some of the Heritage collection being re-introduced features more contemporary materials and colors to meet the tastes of today’s younger consumers. At the same time, new basketball shoes have arrived, inspired by the early- to mid-1990s Fila basketball archives. A full range of retro-styled

apparel is also being launched. The push is mainly aimed at reaching independent retailers with Finish Line as its mall-based partner. The introduction of in September builds on all those launches and includes an e-commerce component. Estabrook said the launch of a dedicated site to the Heritage collection was really “born out of necessity,” given the active sneakerhead community seeking quick access to showcases of Fila’s current and upcoming product. With, fans would have to “wade through a bunch of yoga and tennis images to get to a heritage story.” Louis W. Colon III, founder of sneaker head magazine Kicksclusive and the former founder and owner of Laces Boutique, a women’s sneaker store in SoHo, has been hired as Fila’s director of heritage product and marketing to introduce a new generation of younger consumers.

But also pays homage to sneaker culture and lifestyle while in a subtle way reinforcing Fila’s authenticity in the space. Content initiatives featured on the website include the Rise of the Independents video series celebrating the key inner city doors that established the sneaker craze. Fila traveled across the country this summer and caught up with 12 of the leading independent sneaker boutiques to feature the personalities and history behind the shops that built the sneaker craze. Produced and directed by The Diamond Brothers, each roughly three-minute spot

Opposite Page: Fila and The Diamond Brothers traveled across the U.S. this summer to catch up with 12 of the leading independent sneaker boutiques and to create threeminute short films on the personalities and history behind the retailers that have built the sneaker craze and who "give the stamp of approval" on "what's hot and what's not".


Frank Cooke I WISH ATL

Matt Halfhill I NICE KICKS

Sue Boyle I RIME

Paul Lee I Ubiq

Rick Williams and Roland Coit I Burn Rubber

Mike Packer I Packer Shoes


Osose Ebedan I Fly Kix

Lester Wasserman I WEST NYC

Bobby Alvez I SALViN SHOES

Chase Ceparano and Jason Faustino I RenartS

James Whitner I Social Status SPORTSONESOURCE.COM 5

FILA Spaghetti "Tobacco Road" Pack

Fila believes it will be able to come out with basketball footwear without the need for an NBA superstar... [and] the sneaker community now broadly connects across music, sports, culture and fashion.

FILA 96 Retro Olympic Photos this page courtesy Carl C. Olsen and Renarts

gives viewers a behind the scenes look at what has made these shops so successful in what was once a highly-competitive market, which has more recently come down to a matter of survival for much of the past decade. Most sneaker history profiles focus solely on the rabid collectors. The first entry was from Frank Cooke, the legendary buyer from Atlanta’s Wish ATL, who shared his perspective on his favorite shoe models, led by the Jordan I that came out the year he was born. He also lamented that the current sneaker business has become too serious, saying “we need to bring it back to collecting shoes and being part of this culture.” From Austin, TX, Nice Kicks’ Matt Halfhill, better known as founder and publisher of the sneaker blog, talks about how the "Answer 1," Alan Iverson’s signature shoe for Reebok, was his first sneaker love; his wife’s nagging over some of his shoe choices; as well as his quest to fill his bucket list of sneakers over the years, including the Grant Hill II. He said, “For me, the hunt and chase was just as enjoyable as any step you would take in some of these shoes.” From Burn Rubber, just outside Detroit, coowner Roland Coit discussed how he only agreed to visit his father in jail if his grandmother bought him Fila’s M-Squad sneakers, as an example of sneaker fervor. His partner Rick Williams pointed out how Burn Rubber helps “give the stamp of approval” on “what’s hot and what’s not.” At the same time, he stressed that the store is in business to make money and has a responsibility not to push product “that isn’t going to help the community or be in a positive light.”


Fila Cage "Re-Introduced" Pack

Other independent retailers featured in the series, which was fully paid for by Fila but was picked up by Complex TV, include Rime, Ubiq, Renarts, Packer Shoes, Fly Kix, Social Status, Puffer Reds, West NYC and Salvin Shoes. “Our initial concern in doing these spots,” said Colon III, “was that we might end up with 12 very similar narratives about their favorite shoes, their reason for getting into the business and their first Fila story. Let’s face it - we all know the tennis, basketball, and early Hip Hop Fila lore. As it turns out, each retailer had such distinct memories and different outlooks on how to move forward that we ended up with an embarrassment of riches in terms of content to select from.”

“What surprises everyone who has seen the spots,” added Estabrook, “is that they feature all of the brands these retailers mentioned during the course of the interviews, not just Fila. The purpose of these spots is to embrace the idea that great sneakers deserve a place in every closet in America and Fila has, and continues to sell, sneakers that belong there too.” The Rise of the Independents video series is complemented on by Fila Profiles, a series of interviews with up-and-coming influencers in fashion, art, photography and other creatives who fit into the "Fila lifestyle." Estabrook said Fila has long been regarded by its evangelists for its independent streak

and original attitude. Back in the 80s, rappers gravitated to Fila - well before the brand started signing NBA stars and even before it had much merchandise in the U.S. market - because they saw the Italian tennis brand connoting luxury and aspiration. After re-acquiring the North American rights from a licensee, Fila began making sneakers and apparel and began signing players, starting with Kevin Johnson in 1989. Jamal Mashburn, Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Weber and Grant Hill each played under Fila at one time. With Jordan by far becoming the powerhouse brand in the sneaker world, some fans, much like the rap stars, chose to wear Fila to stand out, in particular Grant Hill’s signature shoes. Said Estabrook, “Back in the day, if you were wearing a Stackhouse or a 95, you were going against the grain. You were one of the kids not wearing Jordan. And that still holds true in 2013.” The first Fila Profiles is street artist Shells, who attracted media attention earlier this year

Philip Post and Jacobi McLemore Fila Profiles is aimed at introducing a younger generation to the independent streak of the Fila Brand. Two young streetwear designers Philip Post founder of Dertbag and Jacobi McLemore, founder of Death Precision Inc. are featured in the series. The website also includes a community blog, and a product section showing multiple shoe angles and links to buy.

after he installed faux street signs emblazoned with hip-hop lyrics at several locations throughout the Big Apple. The second is a duo-interview with two promising young streetwear designers - Philip Post, the brains behind Dertbag Design, and Jacobi McLemore, founder of Death Precision Inc. Others featured in the series include George Spanky McCurdy, the gospel/soul/pop/hip-hop drummer who has played and toured with Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake; and the founders of the Brooklyn Brewery. Estabrook said the Fila Profiles is aimed at introducing a younger generation to the independent streak of the Fila brand. Said Estabrook, “We’re bringing them stories about people who are different, but we also hope to show them the rich history of Fila that they may not be aware of. When they hear about it, they look at us in a different way.” The website also features a community blog, and a product section showing multiple shoe angles and links to buy. The website and associated social media push is all part of an overall energized marketing campaign that includes billboards along the I-95 corridor and updated instore POP displays. Going forward, Fila is looking to expand the video series to include international retail partners for 2014. More comeback shoes are set, including the highly anticipated return for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game of the KJ7, Kevin Johnson’s signature shoe. The brand is also building a west-coast strategy to reach markets less influenced by inner-city basketball. Fila will also continue to work on new shoes it hopes will become collectors’ decades down the road. Unlike before, however, Fila believes it will be able to come out with basketball footwear without the need for an NBA superstar. The brand believes the sneaker community now broadly connects across music, sports, culture and fashion. “Basketball players today live in a 24-hour news cycle,” said Kelly Funke, Fila’s director of U.S. marketing. “They can absolutely wear Nike on the court but that might not be what they want to wear to the locker room or outside the locker room. We’re not looking to come into the performance space, but these guys do wear more than one shoe.” Colon III said Fila is looking to partner with athletes and build one of a kind product specifically for the player and his tastes. “The approach is very different because that athlete has an affinity for the brand and they are choosing to wear Fila,” he explained. “Using

The Heritage Collection The Fila Heritage Collection features more contemporary materials and colors to meet the tastes of today’s younger consumer and includes new basketball shoes inspired by the early- to mid-1990s from the Fila basketball archives.

both the Fila and the players' social media, along with the sneaker, fashion, sports blogs, we plan to tell these individual stories with these athletes one month at a time in 2014.” Overall, Colon III describes the target market for the Heritage collection as the “Verge” consumer who is looking to discover new brands organically. “This customer is influenced by the global culture of sneakers, sports, music, and fashion and is not identified by geographic areas,” said Colon III. “With the connectivity via mobile devices, this Verge consumer is always on and looking to discover the latest. As the early adopters, we aim to speak to them, and not at them, with authentic Fila stories.” ■ SPORTSONESOURCE.COM


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