Kappa Kalcio

On Dec. 7, Kappa will hold an event at Miami Art Basel that merges its heritage in soccer with its positioning as a fashion and lifestyle brand.

The Italy-based company, which was founded in 1967, will partner with Miami Soccer Cage to host a charity soccer match that will include former pro players and creative influencers and will culminate in a donation to the YoungArts charity that helps support young artists. The players will wear bespoke Kappa jerseys from the Kappa Kalcio collection, an assortment of premium sportswear that will be available to purchase next year. And a soccer field adjacent to the game will showcase a collection of 15 jerseys from the Kappa archive.

According to Lorenzo Boglione, vice president of sales at Basic Net, the company his father founded that acquired Kappa post-bankruptcy in 1994, this event reminds the U.S. consumer about Kappa’s roots in soccer, which he feels will be integral to sustaining the brand’s popularity.

“We have a very strong momentum right now and we want to express the history of the brand and mix that with a fashion trend,” said Boglione. “It’s important to show the bedrock of the brand and celebrate that in a modern way.”

Kappa had a lifestyle moment in the Nineties because of an endorsement from the Spice Girls and its connection with numerous football clubs. The brand went through a lull, but things started to pick up after designer Gosha Rubchinskiy reached out about a collaboration, which made its debut at Pitti Uomo in June 2016.

“The immediate effects were quite clear,” said Boglione. “A lot of people who wouldn’t get close to Kappa because it wasn’t something interesting for them started watching Kappa in a totally different perspective.”

This collaboration led to partnerships with brands and retailers including Marcelo Burlon, Faith Connexion, Opening Ceremony and C2H4, along with unofficial celebrity endorsements from the Migos, who wore the tracksuits while on the road with Drake for the “Aubrey & the Three Migos” tour. In 2017, Kappa introduced a fashion-forward line named Kappa Kontrol, which is sold and distributed by Slam Jam globally. Kappa’s line also consists of Kappa Authentic, its lifestyle collection that’s sold in multibrand boutiques and department stores, and Kappa Sport, a performance collection that still makes up the bulk of its business and has broad distribution in sport retailers. In Europe, Kappa sponsors numerous soccer teams and earlier this year signed on the Alfa Romeo Sauber Formula One Team.

In the U.S., the foundation has the license for Kappa Sport and Kappa Authentic, which it acquired in 2017.

“My strategy is to play off of the lifestyle part of the brand and keep it elevated but introduce sport,” said Dre Hayes, president of Kappa USA. “I believe in heritage and support the heritage, but we have a clean slate here and we can do that in a special, premium way.”

According to Hayes, unlike other sports heritage brands, in the U.S. Kappa is keeping its distribution out of lower-priced stores and focusing on retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Urban Outfitters Inc. and Pac Sun. Hayes said distribution started with 18 retailers in 2017 and has grown to 200.

“The U.S. presents such a big opportunity that we don’t have to sell to value channels,” said Hayes. “My challenge here has been getting the logistical infrastructure down to satisfy the demand and deliver in a timely manner.”

Hayes helped spearhead Kappa’s collaboration with the 2017 Gumball 3000 rally, an annual 3,000-mile international motor rally. That partnership included a dedicated collection that was sold at ComplexCon and pop-ups in London, Milan, Tokyo and Los Angeles.

“With collaborations, it should be like a diversified stockholder. You need your ubercool partnership, your more middle play and your more mainstream play,” said Hayes. “Now I’m thinking about collaborations that speak directly to women, electronic music artists and the gaming community.”

Hayes has yet to launch the sport collection in the U.S., but is considering retailers such as Bandier with a fitness/sport collection. He believes that even after the sports heritage trend passes, Kappa can have a steady business in the same way Adidas Originals tracksuits are timeless and always available.

“Things are only dead if you can’t sustain a business,” said Hayes. “I’ve been able to buy an Adidas Originals tracksuit every day of my life regardless of its peaks or valleys. I believe Kappa can reach a certain point where it is always available. I think this brand has much more to it than the heritage sport trend.”