Mitre gaming to be 'the people's champ' of soccer in the US
Project show attendees are likely to notice two things this season: the Project Show staff uniforms and a large, interactive booth that looks like a soccer field. The trade show isn't introducing a new show format or theme this season, but it has partnered with UK-based sports brand Mitre for the uniforms. Welcome to the US launch of the British heritage sportswear label, complete with a mini soccer field installation at Project that showcases the brand's latest collection and peak performance gear.
2017 is the year for Mitre to shine in the US and they are starting it off in a big way in Las Vegas. Many sports fans associate certain brands with a particular sport such as Spalding with the NBA, Wilson with the NFL, and Rawlings with the MLB. Mitre has to compete with soccer brands Umbro, Lotto, Kappa and others to become the number one brand associated with the sport in the US, but they are not deterred.
Hector Estrada, Vice President at Fashion Options and Creative Director of Mitre told Fashion Network that the central goal is to be the brand that best services the soccer fan and become what he describes as 'the people's champ' of soccer.
On and off the pitch
Staring with the fall 2017 collection: Mitre’s extensive offering has a retro feel, drawing inspiration from late 1980s and early 1990s styles, but the collection boasts technological advancements found in present day soccer gear. Mitre invented performance categories VentiPro, ProFlow and FlexPro for ventilation, wicking and mobility, respectively, that both meet the standards of on-field training. The performance apparel is complimented by lifestyle apparel, including sweatshirts, hoodies and pants that feature team colors and country flags.
With this selection, Mitre is aiming to ‘properly service the soccer enthusiast’ by dressing soccer fans both on and off the pitch, according to Hector Estrada, Vice President at Fashion Options and Creative Director of Mitre. The average soccer fan may not play the game regularly, but their loyalty extends beyond the stadium as they remain committed to football clubs and leagues and their country's team.
The lifestyle apparel, in particular, capitalizes on the athleisure movement that is expected to remain for a long time. Magdalena Kondej, Euromonitor Head of Apparel and Footwear, said at a briefing that “one in every six dollars we spend globally on apparel and footwear we spend on sportswear.” Kondej added that the athleisure category, which includes sports-inspired, performance and outdoor clothing, is “increasingly shifting from a trend to a lifestyle, driven by consumers’ desire to be both stylish and comfortable at the same time and at all times.”
Numerous brands have launched athleisure and activewear-inspired collections in recent years, from Abercrombie & Fitch to Balenciaga. Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Rihanna and Kate Hudson have launched athleisure brands Ivy Park, Fenty x Puma and Fabletics, respectively, while Riccardo Tisci, Olivier Rousteing and Kim Jones' collections with Nike spotlighted activewear much like longtime Adidas collaborators Yohji Yamamoto and Stella McCartney.
What sets Mitre apart from the brands entering the athleisure arena, Estrada feels, is heritage. The company has been a frontrunner in technological advancements in performance apparel, and is one of the oldest sports brands in the world. The 200-year-old British company created the first soccer equipment, including balls, shin guards, jerseys, and goalie gloves, and was the first official supplier to the English Football League and FA Cup competitions.
“It would not be accurate to say that Mitre has witnessed the sport’s evolution, because that would exclude them from being part of it,” said Estrada. “In today’s world, you can be the best designer with the best ideas and access to the best materials, but the one thing you can never fabricate is heritage. Only time can create heritage, and I’m fortunate enough to have that. I really look forward to drawing more inspiration from the vault.”
Soccer’s popularity in the U.S.
The Creative Director, who has designed for Ecko and Mecca and founded fashion label Triko, aims to highlight the company's heritage through relevant design and trends. “It's hard to describe how excited I am to witness the beautiful game's explosive growth in the US,” said Estrada.
Though the US grew enamored with soccer much later than other countries, fans have quickly taken to it and fully support teams in global leagues such as the Premier League and La Liga, and the US soccer league Major League Soccer. Mitre has paid close attention to the growing US fan base, and felt that 2017 was the most opportune time to enter the US market, after a number of key indicators pointed to the region’s growing interest in the sport.
In New York City, soccer fans hold full contact games in Chinatown in the summer, in addition to watching games at their closest bar. Retired NBA player Steve Nash holds an annual Showdown soccer game in New York City, playing with active NBA and MLS stars and drawing hundreds of sports fans.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was also a revelation that Americans are more interested in the sport than ever before. The tournament final between Germany and Argentina set an American television record drawing 26.5 million viewers, according to FIFA and Kantar Media, even though the US team was not playing. The New York Times found that the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Final drew a record 26.7 million viewers, exceeding the final games of the 2014 World Series and the 2015 NBA Finals.
According to the Huffington Post, 3 million children played in youth soccer leagues in 2016 and the MLS has been more popular among kids ages 12 to 17 than the MLB since 2013. This indicates a strong potential future market for sportswear labels to tap, and one that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Target recently entered a multi-year partnership with Major League Soccer, marking as its largest-ever push into team sports. The retailer is an official sponsor of Minnesota United FC and the official retailer of US Youth Soccer. Target’s new focus on the sport is not random; soccer has become the number one participation sport in the US.
Mitre has paid close attention to the growing US fan base, and felt that 2017 was the most opportune time to enter the US market. The Project show in Las Vegas is the first step, where Mitre will be from February 21-23 at Project at the Mandalay Bay Convention, Center.
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