A look from Wilson Sportswear.

Wilson Sporting Goods Co. wants to be a player in the lifestyle apparel category.

This week the maker of sports equipment, apparel and accessories will launch Wilson Sportswear in the U.S. and China, which looks to merge sport, fashion and culture. The direct-to-consumer line will be sold exclusively at wilson.com in the U.S., and via WeChat Mini Program and other leading brand sites in China.

In addition, Wilson will open its very first retail locations in late summer in key markets such as Chicago, New York, Beijing and Shanghai.

“For more than a century, Wilson has been designing equipment to the specifications required by the world’s greatest athletes,” said Gordon Devin, president of Wilson Sportswear. “We are excited to extend our craftsmanship, history and heritage to apparel. As athletes continue to redefine themselves, Wilson is redefining the athletes’ uniform, coupling the premium performance expected from Wilson with fresh styles inspired by athletes.”

Devin told WWD that the company has been in and out of the apparel sportswear business throughout its 106-year history. Wilson, which changed hands in 2019 and is now owned by Amer Sports Corp., a subsidiary of the Chinese-owned Anta Sports, looked at its brand and customer base and “heard loud and clear from our customers that they love our brand and they want more from us,” he said.

Wilson Sportswear will range from technical high-performance products to lifestyle products in apparel, footwear and accessories. This week, the company will launch apparel that goes from on and off the court. “We want to own Saturday and Sunday,” said Devin.

Sportswear items are expected to drop biweekly, with collaborations planned around key moments in sports culture. The lineup includes an array of sets for men and women including French Terry hookups and woven warm-ups. Key styles in the starting lineup for women are a Fly Crop Sweatshirt ($68), an Everyday Brami ($48), Stance Slim Jogger ($68), Limitless Skirt ($58) and Evolution Short ($48). For men’s, there’s the Millennium Crewneck Sweatshirt ($78), Newport Polo ($68), Pitch Short-sleeve Baseball Tee ($48), Double Day Training Short ($68) and Midway Travel Pant ($98).

The apparel is sourced in Italy, China, Taiwan and Japan, and manufactured worldwide.

According to Joelle Michaeloff, head of design lifestyle at Wilson, the company is starting with products that are sports-inclusive and cover an athlete from day to night. The line ranges from “on-court sweat-worthy products to hang out, sport-inspired products.”

“Everything comes from a place in sports,” she said.

Devin said they have some collaborations in the pipeline, but it is too early to discuss.

As for the retail stores, Devin talked about Wilson’s first leased space in downtown Chicago, which is opening later this summer. They also plan a store later this summer in New York’s SoHo, which will be 7,000 square feet and feature equipment and clothing. “It’s a place of fun and play and sport and Wilson and community,” he said.

Right now, Wilson’s two largest sports from a revenue perspective are baseball and tennis. The five major sports it focuses on are baseball, tennis, football, basketball and golf. Aside from the starting lineup, Devin said each clothing style ties in with a specific sport through performance or inspiration. Every product considers that specific sport, how they’re getting there, what they’re playing, what they’re playing with, and how they’re using the product.

Some looks from Wilson Sportswear.  courtesy shot.

For example, there are on-court tennis pieces with ball storage that also allows the wearer to carry their phone when they leave the court. There’s also a sweater that can be worn both on and off the court.

In the past, Wilson has made a very small amount of performance tennis product. “We have collapsed them and rolled that into sportswear,” said Devin.

In the first two seasons, they have built out more in tennis than golf, but as the line grows and evolves, clothing for golf will increase.

Overall, the lifestyle collection retails from $40 to $100, with the sweet spot between $50 and $100. Sizes range from XS to XL in women’s and XS to XXL for men’s. Right now, there are no petite or plus sizes. The line is launching with 100 stock keeping units. There is a W logo on the clothing, and there is a range of badges that honor Wilson’s heritage.

Devin sees children’s wear as an opportunity but Wilson is not taking that on in 2021 or 2022.

In going through Wilson’s earlier catalogues, they came across different striped layouts and they used them in the starting lineup. There are little details like proprietary stitches and seams that connect to the equipment.

With the launch of Wilson Sportswear, the company is also extending its Advisory Staff network, which is comprised of more than 10,000 professional athletes, coaches and teaching pros, to include those who intersect with sport culture. Members include Beija Velez, designer, stylist and model; Kelley James, musician, and Jahmal Cole, founder and CEO of My Block, My Hood, My City, among others.

Asked to describe who she believes the Wilson Sportswear customer to be, Michaeloff said, “We internally talk about this ‘Forever 28’ year-old. It’s the inner athlete, someone who grew up loving sports, playing sports. When you play sports, you’re wired a certain way. You’re up to really big things.

“We made a lot of decisions based on that 28-year-old mind-set. The athlete is sometimes driven by their sport. When their sport doesn’t define them anymore, they are forever the athlete,” she said.

 

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