It helps that the Baltimore-based sports brand dresses the world’s most decorated Olympian, Michael Phelps, but it’s not only its position at the top of the medals table courtesy of Team USA that sets it apart. It’s been on a hot streak of its own for several years that’s left many of its competitors spinning in the dust. And, it should be pointed out that it’s not even an official sponsor of the Games).
And the winner is…. Under Armour!
Launched 20 years ago by a former college football star, Kevin Plank, in the 90s it launched its answer to cotton, dubbed UA Tech, a compression and wicking fabric that’s gone on to dominate many of the tonier gyms and championship-winning locker rooms of the world, inevitably at the expense of more established players such as Nike and Adidas, and perhaps its nearest rival in terms of elevating the business end of “athleisure” style, Lululemon.
Under Armour has come up fast on the inside, however; initially thanks to early exposure in Oliver Stone’s NFL epic, Any Given Sunday, and more recently, an aggressive “associate programme” that includes golfer Jordan Speith (who nevertheless passed on the chance to brandish the brand in Rio) Gisele Bündchen, UCLA, Tottenham Hotspur and Andy Murray – who chose to wear his UA high-tops alongside his all-Adidas Team GB kit while in Rio.
It’s a bold, some would say, brutal approach to grabbing market share in keeping with Under Armour’s motto “Protect This House”. That house will ultimately include the former home of storied toy emporium, F.A.O. Schwartz, on New York’s Fifth Avenue. But first, recently-hired executive creative director Tim Coppens will reveal his first collection under the UAS banner, a firm step towards broadening Under Armour’s appeal beyond the sporting fraternity.
It’s also a considered move upmarket: UA’s core lines of T-shirts and sneakers have traditionally been priced to undercut its rivals, whereas the Belgian-born, American-based designer’s range is expected to compete in the growing “sports luxe” sector.
Previously a designer for Adidas, Ralph Lauren’s RLX active wear range, as well as his own line of luxury-inflected casual wear launched in 2011, his appointment in charge of Under Armour Sportswear (UAS) places Coppens firmly on the podium of contemporary sportsluxe designers.
His debut Built for Life collection for UAS debuts in the autumn, and will include men and women’s wear, shoes and accessories all designed to see you streaking ahead in the stylistic and athletic arena alike.
Bill Prince / The Telegraph /
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