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Men'sWeek issue 01/17/2013

Designer Todd Snyder has partnered with activewear-maker Champion on a co-branded line that will be in stores this August.

This story first appeared in the January 17, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The 35-piece capsule line includes the expected gym-inspired pieces like sweats, T-shirts and thermal crewnecks, which will retail for $55 to $125, but also extends the Champion brand into designer garments like wool flannel varsity jackets for $700, a waxed duffle coat for $450 and even a slim-fit suit — fashioned from Champion’s signature reverse weave sweatshirt fabric — that will retail for $1,600.

Snyder and Champion expect the collection to become an ongoing collaboration. Retailers will get their first look at the offerings at the Project trade shows in New York and Las Vegas.

“I love the juxtaposition of tailoring and athleticwear,” said Snyder, who often pairs sport coats with active pieces in his own fashion week presentations. “I grew up wearing Champion in school and have collected vintage pieces for the past 15 years. I never realized how much their stuff is coveted by collectors until I got into fashion. Champion is a real American icon and I wanted to elevate the brand.”

Now a unit of Hanesbrands Inc., Champion was founded in 1919 and over the years invented and popularized the reverse weave sweatshirt, mesh practice jerseys and the sports bra. The brand rings up $2.1 billion in annual sales.

Snyder worked with Champion’s chief design officer, Ned Munroe, and design director, Joanne Sessler, on the new designer line. “It’s part of our halo strategy, which takes us beyond sporting goods and collegiate stores. This brand is relevant on field but it’s also relevant off field as a lifestyle brand,” said Munroe.

Champion has aimed for the hipster market in recent seasons via a specialty collection sold at Urban Outfitters, which launched this past fall, and a line with skate brand Supreme, launched two years ago. “Our next step was to find a designer that had distribution in top specialty stores that could really embrace Champion and work with higher price points,” said Munroe.

Snyder, a veteran of Ralph Lauren, Gap and J. Crew, launched his namesake designer label in 2011 that is carried at influential retailers such as Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Ron Herman and Mr Porter. While at J. Crew as senior vice president of menswear, he became adept at cross-pollinating brands via collaborations with companies like Timex, Red Wing, Thomas Mason and Alden.

The Todd Snyder + Champion collection bears labels and hangtags decorated with Champion graphics from the Fifties, with each garment stenciled with a “T. Snyder” mark. Most of the garments are manufactured by the WS & Co. production facility in Toronto.

“It’s a high-end knitwear manufacturer and they have 50-year-old flat lock machines, which is the stitch that really sets apart a great vintage sample from newer samples. It’s slower, but it produces the best stitch,” explained Snyder.

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