Once a local shop, now a leading global designer of high-end sportswear. Fila has a long and rich history, but for a while, it was as if the brand didn’t exist. But the past two years have been quite nostalgic as we see many brands reviving ’90s pieces, Fila’s Disruptor sneakers being one of them. Let’s get into how Fila came back.

The early years

The Fila brothers opened their first shop back in 1911 in Biella, a small town in northern Italy. They started out as a textile manufacturer for the local townspeople. But in search to produce more luxury fabrics, they started incorporating elements of art and utility. So they drew inspiration from their homeland, the Italian landscape. From the simplicity and beauty of the Alps to the fluidity of the hills along the Mediterranean coast.

The merge

In 1942 the company expanded, merging with the Fratelli Fila company. In 1968, Giansevero Fila hired Enrico Frachey as the company’s Managing Director. Frachey shared Fila’s vision, and the duo began work on transforming the company into a global sportswear brand. By 1972 the company had reached sales of over one billion Lire and a workforce of more than 250 people.

The brand opened up their archives in an exclusive two-day exhibition.

This document was part of the archives

Becoming a sportswear brand

Now operating as a sportswear brand, one of the first sports they got into was tennis, endorsing numerous leading players from the time. These included Bjorn Borg, and in later years, Boris Becker, Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, and Kim Clijsters. While the company was able to carve out a reputation in the world of tennis, it was still behind Nike and Reebok in the US.

Bjorn Borg poses with his trophy after winning the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championship

In 1994, they aimed to change this by signing an endorsement deal with NBA star, Grant Hill, along with World Cup 94 winning skier, Alberto Tomba. This marked a change in fortunes for the brand as it continued their tug of war with Nike and Reebok. The ’90s also saw a huge increase in sales within the South African market, with most kids growing up during that era owning a pair of Fila sneakers. Myself included.

Grant Hill’s FILA 96 “OG” silhouette was one of the hottest sneakers during the mid-90s

By the end of the decade, after having dominated the tennis scene, breaking trends such as the all-white silhouette, the brand finally established itself across various other sporting codes, including baseball, basketball, football and motorsport.

The story behind the logo

During their rise in the sporting world, Fila adopted a new logo in the ’80s. The logo received artistic treatment of the letter F, comprising of snakelike letters which gave it a highly futuristic and elegant look. The red bar in the F represents vitality, vigor, and passion. The blue color, on the other hand, represents the trustworthiness and reliability of the brand. The Flogo remains strikingly memorable today, as it once again aims to dominate the world.

In the world of Hip Hop

Rappers like LL Cool J, Arabian Prince, Big Daddy Kane, Tupac, and Nas can be seen wearing the brand in either hats, tracksuits and/or shoes. On the NWA “The Posse” EP, Arabian Prince can be seen wearing a Fila jacket on the cover and high top Original Fitness Filas on the back cover. In Just Ice’s first LP “Back To The Old School”, the cartoon characters are wearing Fila hats. On the back cover of Tupac’s “All Eyes On Me” LP, you can see the “F” on the bottom of Tupac’s Filas. Fila was considered a streetwear brand.

Fresh Gordon not only used the capital “F” design of the Fila brand for his name but also made a response track to Run DMC’s “My Adidas” called “My Filas”.  Schooly D also made a song called “Put Your Filas On” while Steady B recorded the dance track “Do The Fila”.  The DOC even started a group called The Fila Fresh Crew. Filas were everywhere!

Fresh Gordon “My Fila” track

Even in lyrics!

Threw on my Fila suit and my Fila sneaks
Threw on my Fila underwear and my Fila hat
Then I ran downstairs and kicked the Fila cat

Fresh Prince – Just One Of Those Days

It’s also mentioned in TLC’s “No Scrubs”, Beastie Boys’ “The scoop”, Nas’ “My Way”, Salt-N-Pepa’s “I’ll Take Your Man”.

That period in the 2000s

The 2000s was a tricky period for the company in terms of sales and brand awareness across the globe. This lead to numerous acquisitions, mergers, and likes during this time. And so in 2007, the global Fila brand and all its subsidiaries were acquired by Fila Korea. It’s the largest South Korean sportswear company. And currently holds all the rights to the worldwide use of footwear and clothing brands.

Fila Korea made a collaboration with Pokemon in 2018

The rebirth

During the next few years, the brand worked its way back up to earn its place among the top tier in designer sneaker and apparel. In 2017, Fila’s collaboration with fashion brand, Pink Dolphin Clothing, produced the cage silhouette. It almost immediately sold out in stores. This emphatically marked the return of the Fila brand on a global scale.

One of the pieces in the collaboration with Pink Dolphin

Disruptor sneakers

Fila’s hit sneaker of the 90s, the Disruptor, is one of the most popular women’s shoes of 2018. The sawtooth-soled behemoth, most often seen in stark white, was originally released in 1996. It’s a new sibling, the Disruptor II prays on multiple fashion trends simultaneously. The ’90s resurgence, the rise of the bulky dad sneakers, and even fashion’s current love of the “deliberately ugly”. Demand has been running high for its logo-centric tops and retro sneakers, like the Mindblower and especially the Disruptor.

Fila Disruptor II sneakers

Now Fila clothes and shoes are merging neatly into the broader trends shaping fashion, with the added bonus of genuine heritage. And this time, they want to stick around.

2 thoughts on “How Fila came back: History and what made it hot again

    • Simona Peovska says:

      Yo! Thanks for pointing that typo out – it’s actually 1911! Glad you enjoyed the article, stay cool 😉

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