Everyone loves a good comeback story, it tends to give us a glimmer of hope. The idea of being given a second chance is particularly enticing in the world that we live in; where the instant something outlives its usefulness, it is booted out. Consequently making a comeback in the teeth of all the odds that are set against you is very inspiring for everyone.
For a brand which was born and having reached the top for the better part of the 90’s, Fila’s disappearance during the first 15 years of the 21st century was extremely strange. Fila’s sudden comeback from their seemingly lengthy disappearance is not only surprising but it’s also very impressive. Just when the industry was ready to draw the curtains on Fila, they returned with great vigor. As it is always tremendously inspiring to witness a comeback, may it be a celebrity, a politician or a brand returning back into the market; it is particularly exhilarating being in the presence of such great ambition.
Fila’s inconsistency in terms of their relevancy as a brand in the last few decades may have led the world to overlook just how vastly prestigious the brand once was. It was formerly one of the world leaders in the basketball shoe industry, following Nike and many others.
Fila being a brand from the last century has an edge when it comes to pinning down their target market, which mostly consists of people feeling nostalgic and reminiscing the ‘good old days’, or millennials craving for the 90’s vibe.
How it started
Just like many other renowned businesses such as Apple and Ralph Lauren, Fila started off small-scale. The brand’s fabled journey began in 1911 in Beilla, a small town in northern Italy when the founders i.e. the Fila brothers opened their first shop. Initially Fila was a textile manufacturer, providing it’s products only locally. Originally Fila wasn’t all about the brand recognition or awareness as instead of the upscale athletic wear the brand became affiliated with in the later years, they started off by making knitwear, specifically innerwear. With time, as the brand gained greater acknowledgement it began to develop an image as a high end sportswear brand.
The good old days
If you were told to say the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name ‘Fila’, we bet it would be basketball shoes. Following 1975 Fila started off it’s reign in the sportswear industry by capitalising on the athleticwear industry, specifically tennis. So why do our thoughts automatically go to basketball shoes when we think about the brand? In 1988 Fila was acquired by a parent company called Gemina S.p.A, following the event of this acquisition and a major inventory hitch, the prices of the brand’s products sold on the U.S. market faced a huge decline. In lieu of this unforeseen circumstance, the brand did not attempt to return to their original pricing model, but instead they decided to accept and welcome the benefits which came hand in hand with their new unintended target market. The aforementioned ‘new target market’ refers mainly to casual basketball players and the urban community, which is very different from the market the brand previously catered to. This changed the brand’s image from an upper class European tennis brand to an American casual streetwear sport brand.
The wax wings melted
Much like Icarus, Fila flew too close to the sun. Coming to the realization that the brand could expand to multiple markets in the sportswear industry excited them into investing every bit of their newly earned capital into every moderately parallel market. The facade fabricated due to their inability to focus on and exploit a single market cost them 50% of their sales in 1998. This forced the company to return to ground zero following the closing of many stores and having to lay off numerous employees.
A trip down memory lane
It’s no secret that this generation is obsessed with the 90’s, while hardly even having any memories of them. What does this mean for the people who actually lived it? Fila may just be a sportswear and streetwear brand but due to it being highly associated with the 90’s and since it was around quite a lot, just the sight of the Fila logo is enough to make people start reminiscing the past. This proved to be a huge aid in the successful comeback of Fila.
How it’s going
There was a change in ownership of Fila in 2007. As Fila was down in the dumps, Fila Korea was able to swoop in and buy the company for a real bargain. Now all it needed was the right leadership and some really good strategies to be on top of the industry once again. The new CEO Yoon Geun-chang was the saving grace Fila needed all along. In the 2019 Milan fashion week Fila’s creative directors decided to go with a very safe collection to make their comeback to the runway. Fila recognises their role in the 90’s throwback culture and fully capitalises on that, this is very evident considering their recent collections. This has everyone rummaging through their closets in order to find anything with the Fila logo on it. It is safe to say that Fila no longer primarily aims to regale the niche community, but is rather testing out its luck to see how far they can go.
Fila: A cautionary tale or an inspirational story?
Fila’s comeback along with many successes they have had in the past may be very inspiring, but upon looking closely it isn’t very difficult to notice the patterns which lead to the company’s success; sheer luck. Any individual’s take away from Fila’s epic journey is fully dependent on their perception of the facts. Whether you choose to acknowledge the fact that Fila has proven to adapt with any predicament they have faced in over a 100 years of being in business, or if you pay attention to the trends and Fila’s involvement in the throwback and hip-hop culture; you cannot debate against the relentless talent they possess which aided them into turning their ill fortune around every single time. While Fila somehow always manages to come back out on the top, it does raise some questions about whether their foregoing downfall could’ve been avoided.