The Rise and Fall of Champion in 100 years



Champion is a fashion brand that enjoyed instant boom and popularity as a trendsetter from the start. However, the tables turned for the company in the early 2000s. Champion’s times were bad during the period to the extent that the logo “C” on your clothes meant that you were broke. The time turned again, making Champion a top streetwear brand again. Now, celebrities like Rihanna, Kardashians, and Justin Bieber proudly wear Champion t-shirts, sweats, and hoodies decorated with the “C” logo.

All in all, the brand has become a name that is dominating the current athleisure market with vigour. But like every success story has a back story of rising from failure, Champion has one too. The revival story of Champion remains incomplete without delving deep into the rise and fall that it faced in the past.

The glorious beginning 

Champion was formed in 1919 under the Hanes hood when Abraham and William Feinbloom started selling sportswear to college youth. The brand was instantly accepted and cherished, and it remained constant till 1996. The name has become a multi-billion-dollar tag in the fashion industry. The brand has reached a peak of popularity, especially among the young college teams in the 1990s. It was the booming beginning of the brand, expedited more by innovation and inventions by the company in later years.

Champion becoming the trendsetter for hoodies and RWT:

Champion established itself as a trendsetter by introducing new sportswear in the 1990s. We know that item by “hoodies” these days. The new staple immediately became the rage among streetwear enthusiasts. The successful invention was soon followed by another milestone, Reverse Weave technology (RWT). The technology was introduced to create anti-shrink and heat resistant designs and is still used by leading clothing manufacturers. With these two innovative steps, Champion soon skyrocketed to the top of the fashion industry.

The partnerships adding value to the brand:

Champion found valuable partnerships with the National Football League and National Collegiate Athletic Association. These partnerships played significant roles in increasing the brand’s exposure and heightening Champion’s name in the industry. The mergers and the direction quickly doubled the sales from 1985 to 1988. The Sara Lee corporation subsequently bought the Champion for 320 million US dollars, making things even better. With increased resources, Champion’s growth was more constant and faster as compared to the other brands.

Champion reaching the peak of success:

By 1992, Champion had gained so much popularity that the National Basketball Association nominated the brand to supply the uniforms for the entire league. The brand achieved global recognition when it brought forward Dream Team Jersey for the 1992 Olympic Basketball team. However, after all the glory, the brand still could not sustain its success for longer. By late 1996, Champion was already on its way to lose the hard-earned popularity and success.

The fall 

Champion had to face the fall for two main reasons. The first reason was the sudden turnaround of Sara Lee Corporation, and the second was the downfall of the Xtreme Football League. The falling league took the company down with them. After the retrieval of Sara Lee Corporation, it was difficult for Champion to take the blow. The Champion fans started to speculate and eventually lost interest in Champion products. It was the beginning of the fall.

The turnaround of Sara Lee Corporation 

The Sara Lee Corporation lost its interest in Champion because the American food industry became more appealing. In the end, the corporation sold out Champion Europe, a chunk of the company, to invest in the booming food industry of America. Champion lost the resources and capital, faded to depths of the American clothing industry.

XFL taking the Champion down the road

The retrieval of Sara Lee Corporation has already unstabled Champion on its footing. When XFL went down, Champion couldn’t withstand the blow and collapsed too. Nike and Adidas came into play and soon dominated the American sportswear market by grabbing consumer interest. At that time, Champion had to fire around 100 employees to cut down the cost. Once popular Champion products were limited to stores like Target and Walmart.

The lack of revolutionary products after the Dream team jersey and bad decisions pushed Champion, once the industry leader, to hang their products in the store racks. Champion became an off-the-rack brand and thus a sign of low status.

The reboot

The credit of Champion’s revival goes to HanesBrand Inc. who acquired the brand completely from Sara Lee Corporation in 2006. All the collections of Champion clothing were moved under HanesBrands Inc. Hanes also brought back Champion Europe under its wings in the next ten years, which ultimately rebooted the brand name and image in the fashion industry. HanesBrands Inc. did become not only the new owner of the brand but also a good omen for the logo “C.” The new owners gave the boost and resources to the brand that was required. Champion celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019. The brand is making the most out of its rich history by doubling down on the core principles of design and serving up the characteristic silhouettes inundated in the history of Champion’s label. Under Hanes supervision, Champion has turned a new leaf with a rich past of hundred happening years.


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