Wait. Fila had a runway show at Milan Fashion Week?
Words by Rob Chilton
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The iconic 1990s sportswear brand continues its comeback with an eye-catching SS20 fashion show
If you’re over 40, the recognisable rounded Fila ‘F’ logo will probably raise a nostalgic smile. You might want to have a dig around your parents’ loft in case you still have any Fila gear tucked away because the brand is mounting a major assault on the fashion world and those vintage pieces are in high demand.
Led by creative directors Antonino Ingrasciotta and Joseph Graesel, who joined Fila last year, the sportswear brand is leaping on the trend for 1990s sportswear and presented its SS20 collection at Milan Fashion Week. The talked-about runway show featured men and women wearing athletic-minded clothes inspired by the beach, the pool and the sea. Sailing jackets and anoraks were particularly noteworthy as were satchels, bum bags and sock-style boots.
The show comes nearly a century after Fila started out making knitwear. The turning point came in 1971 when designer Pierluigi Rolando was employed to help Fila step onto the tennis court and invented the famous curved ‘F’ logo that was splashed across a range of clothing.
Fila’s popularity was helped enormously by being seen on the shoulders of Björn Borg when the Swedish tennis icon ruled the game in the mid-1970s. Boris Becker wore Ellesse for his first Wimbledon triumph aged 17 in 1985, but was soon snapped by Fila. Later, in 1996 Fila switched focus to basketball and acquired rising star Grant Hill. In 2018 Fila tied Grant to a lifetime deal that has seen his 90s shoes reimagined and re-released. As often happens with sportswear brands, they cross over into other sectors and Fila’s moment came when rapper LL Cool J sported tracksuit tops during his heyday.
In recent years Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy has collaborated on a range of clothing, while rap star Andre 3000 is also a fan. But tennis is still the core of the business and Fila has Czech Republic player Karolina Pliskova and American number one John Isner on its roster. The message from the Italian HQ of Fila says the SS20 collection "starts from the archives, from the Fondazione Fila Museum in Biella where all the brand's key pieces are kept." Many pieces in the range stick to the red, white and navy colour palette that is a trademark of the brand, but black and beige also made an appearance in Milan.
Part of Fila's current offering is the P.L. Rolando collection, named after the designer who was instrumental in altering the direction of the brand way back in 1971, and which acts as recognition of his crucial contribution that helped Fila become a champion of sportswear style.
Fila’s first store in the Middle East is now open at Mall of the Emirates.
Autumn style tips by Justin O'Shea