Freshly home from Beijing with eight shiny new gold medals, Michael Phelps is using his fame — and endorsement dollars — to support the sport that made him a household name. On Tuesday, Joe Gromek, chief executive officer of The Warnaco Group Inc., which owns Speedo, presented Phelps with a $1 million bonus check for his victories. Phelps promptly said he would use the money to form the Michael Phelps Foundation, dedicated to growing the sport of swimming globally and encouraging active lifestyles. Here, the two discuss with WWD the impact of Phelps’ achievements.
WWD: How did you decide to use your $1 million bonus from Speedo to create the Michael Phelps Foundation? Michael Phelps: I have this opportunity to continue to try to achieve my goal of raising the sport to a new level — get new faces involved, get kids involved. I want to take them through what I did, starting with a dream, then a plan, then reaching a dream. Hopefully this will change a lot of people’s lives. Joe Gromek: Michael is going on a multicity tour of eight cities to visit Boys & Girls Clubs. Today we awarded Michael his $1 million for his seven gold medals, and, based on the fact he reached an eighth, we donated $200,000 to his foundation.
WWD: What do you wear when you are out of the pool? M.P.: Jeans, polos, button-downs, nothing too fancy. J.G.: He likes Calvin Klein Jeans and Underwear, I hear [which Warnaco makes]. M.P.: Yeah, I wear Diesel, Seven, D&G, Lacoste — that’s pretty much it.
WWD: Chlorine can take a lot out of your skin. Do you have skin care products you like? M.P.: I use Kiehl’s lotion. I don’t have much hair to wash, so I’m not picky about shampoo.
WWD: Any plans to start your own line? M.P.: We have a hat over there [with an eight on the front for the number of gold medals]. It’s one of three. Plus we have a T-shirt and a bunch of things in the works, but nothing finalized. J.G.: We’re working together on those. We introduced the T-shirt at the [U.S. Olympic] trials in Omaha and sold out immediately.
WWD: How involved were in you designing Speedo’s LZR Racer? M.P.: I was involved in finalizing everything and testing the suit. More world records were set in this Olympics for swimming than in the last two combined. It’s the fastest suit known to mankind. We looked around at one point to count, and I think there were only two guys not wearing the LZR Racer. But there’s nothing unfair about it — everyone can wear it. J.G.: In Beijing, 91 percent of gold medals were won by athletes wearing the LZR Racer. We sent 2,500 to Omaha for the Olympic trials so every American could wear it, then we sent 3,000 to Beijing. The China team switched to it. It leveled the playing field.
WWD: Can it be improved upon? J.G.: As soon as this suit hit the trials in Omaha, we started working on a new suit. When you present something of this quality, you challenge yourself to constantly improve.
WWD: If you were willing to give away $1 million today, you must be expecting more to come. What endorsement deals are you lining up? M.P.: I’m still finalizing. I haven’t had time to discuss the full details, I’ve been so busy. The biggest thing about getting involved in other companies is that it makes sense based on my lifestyle. Everything I am involved in now makes sense because I use it: Speedo, Visa, Omega, PowerBar, Hilton, Rosetta Stone, AT&T.
WWD: This Olympics proved you can still be competitive in swimming when you are 40. Do you have a plan of how long you want to compete? M.P.: I’m not going to be in this sport when I’m 40, that’s for sure. I’ve told myself that after the next four years, I will hang my suit up. I’ve been quoted to say that I will retire by 40. I would like to start the second part of my life by the time I’m 30. I’m not sure exactly what that will be, but my coach and I could have some business opportunities in the future.
WWD: With Michael’s visibility in these games and his goal to increase the profile of swimming, do you expect Speedo’s competitive swimming business will grow significantly? J.G.: Competitive swimming is a big part of the Speedo business. Since Michael has been performing this summer, our market share went from 62 to 71 percent. I think there will be lots of LZR Racers as Christmas gifts this year. Last year, we sold 10,000 of our top suit, and now we are producing 1,500 to 2,000 LZR Racers per month, though it’s $575, so it’s not for everyone.
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)