Brandable: Champion Reigns
There’s hardly a brand more recognizable than Champion. Celebrating 100 years in business this year, Champion—a subsidiary of Hanes, Inc., based in Winston-Salem, South Carolina—is a chameleon brand, of sorts, adjusting to the changing trends and needs of all generations. Take a stroll down any city street and you’ll spot a 20-something Millennial rocking Champion track pants, a Gen Z wearing a tee with an allover logo print, a Generation X wearing a cotton Champion sweatshirt and a Baby Boomer sporting a logo-adorned Champion cap. Champion has not only managed to remain relevant, but it’s everywhere—a clear indication the brand is doing something—or, rather, a lot of things—right.
There are many legs to Champion’s revival, but the brand’s popularity stems from its on-trend look, which is an amalgamate of throwback wear—especially reminiscent of the ’80s and ’90s—logoed apparel and street fashion inspired by skateboard culture. More modern details include cutoff shirts and sweatshirts, allover prints and vintage details. Undoubtedly, Champion has remained incredibly versatile, which was also made possible through strategic collaborations with big-name streetwear labels, like Supreme, Undefeated and Vetements in the United States, and with A Bathing Ape and Monkey Time in Japan, and Wood Wood and Beams in Scandinavia. While other brands are busy reinventing their look, Champion is sticking to its classic, historical roots as an athletic and leisure-wear company—and it’s doing that well. During the winter of 2018, according to Time, Champion experienced double-digit growth, and in 2018, international sales climbed to $1.4 billion, and is projected to reach $2 billion by 2022. Another smart move on Champion’s part that deserves mention is its recent slew of brick-and-mortar store openings. Prior to opening its first U.S. storefront in Los Angeles in 2018, the brand went nearly 100 years without a physical storefront. Since then, it has opened sister locations in New York, Boston and Chicago, with plans to add more.
Not only are Champion’s clothes on par, but so is its social media. Time reported that since 2016, Champion’s Instagram following grew from 200,000 to nearly five million. The colorful social media page features apparel worn by all demographics in all scenarios, from an athlete running track to a couple pictured on the street, to an adventurer hiking in the woods. The brand also scored high in pop culture, with fans including the Kardashian clan, models Gigi Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, singers Rihanna and Ariana Grande, actress Selena Gomez and rapper Kendrick Lamar—a great difference from Champion’s early days, when it was founded by Simon Fleinbloom and his sons, Abe and Bill, as Knickerbocker Knitting Mills in Rochester, New York, and exclusively served youth sports teams and college students.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.