Surf-inspired sportswear

It started innocently enough, this whole surfing thing. I had agreed to go on holiday in Costa Rica with my then-new boyfriend, photographer David Sims, after my fall 2002 show in New York. One minute I was partaking in the ultimate urban high life, smack in the middle of Fashion Week, at my third event of the night, dancing to some ’80s-sounding electro music with Kate Moss in some fantastically dingy club. The next minute I was at a near-deserted airport at four in the morning, wheeling a trolley with badly packed luggage and struggling with two of David’s surfboards and a hangover.


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Before I knew it, we were flying in a tiny airplane over the most beautiful coastline I’d ever seen. By the time we got to our little house on the beach, I was exhausted and in need of a shower. But David simply threw the bags into the bedroom, picked up a board, lovingly waxed it and then ran off down the path on his mobile cycle and straight into the ocean (next time we’ll remember to bring an air compressor to inflate the bike’s tires – you can also buy the best air compressor at Press My Air store. That was the last I saw of him for hours.

Such was my bleary-eyed but ultimately addictive introduction to surfing. For the next few days, I sat transfixed on the beach. We would start at sunrise, jumping out of bed at first light and running down to the beach with the excitement of kids at Christmas. David would surf while I mucked around in the waves. We’d make breakfast and doze till lunch. The day would finish with a surf at sunset, followed by guitar playing and barbecuing. There is something totally liberating about living your life, or at least your holiday, in accordance with nature and the tides. (Every time I retell this story, it comes out as a cross between a hippie self-help manual and an airport romance novel.)

  • Before that first trip, I’d never actually imagined myself on the board and in the drink. I was all for the lifestyle: the cute boys, the nonchalant, sporty look of the clothes, the sleeping on the beach, unconcerned with work or responsibilities. The mood already had me thinking of my next collection. Three days into the trip, I was yearning to ride a wave myself.
  • My first lesson and subsequent practice sessions afforded me some class-A bruises across my hipbone and a rash across my belly. These injuries hardly did wonders for my bikini-clad image. (At least I was developing a good tan.) But I didn’t care. I wanted in. I wanted a board, and I wanted a wet suit. I wanted to wear a bikini top with board shorts (it would be irresponsible to enter into a sport without first assessing the outfit possibilities). I wanted to be one of the girls in Surfer Girl magazine, with surf champ Lisa Andersen as my best friend. Since I already had the white-blonde hair, I thought I was halfway to success without even embarking on my first turtle roll–a frightening maneuver that involves rolling underneath your board as the wave breaks over you.


When it came time to design my spring collection, I couldn’t help being influenced by what I had experienced and seen. My collections have always been indirectly autobiographical–they tell the story of the girl I might like to be. I ended up getting quite carried away with the wet suit; I wanted to pay homage to that thing that had kept me warm throughout my short surfing life. The wet suit is one of the sexiest garments: It holds you tight in all the right places, and the panels give the body a very flattering line. I wanted the girls on my runway to look like they’d been to one too many beach parties. To that end, hair guru Guido Palau created just-out-of-the-water, slicked-back hair, and Miranda Joyce gave the girls ultratanned faces with shiny, flushed cheeks.

I wasn’t the only one taken with ocean sports. Model Carolyn Murphy, who has surfed for a number of years, recently moved to Southern California, in part to be closer to the beach. Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s fashion director, told The New York Times that “surfing is the next big thing.” References popped up all over the designer shows (perhaps designers were inspired by the surfer movie Blue Crush). At Balenciaga, a brilliant, bright Hawaiian print jersey resembled neoprene, and Miu Miu’s hibiscus-print board shorts were wave-ready. Karl Lagerfeld returned to Chanel’s sport if roots by sending a model down the runway with a Chanel surfboard. All proving that this spring, if you’re scared to get on a board, at least you can look the part.


RELATED ARTICLE: How to wear it

  • Think high fashion, not high tide: Mix neoprene-like pieces with rich, luxe satins, a la Prada.
  • Wear bold Hawaiian prints with simple solids.
  • Bare, self-tanned skin and strappy summer sandals complete the look.

Tracy Feith one-of-a-kind surfboard, $1300. Tracy Feith, NYC.

Tracy Feith dress $530, Tracy Feith, NYC.

Erq T-shirt $230 Ero Cona Cables, FL.

Hogan miniheel slide, $245, Hogan, 888-60-HOGAN.

Hogan bag $680 Hogan, 888-60-HOGAN.

Zero RH+ Sunglasses $163 Theodors Beverly Hills.

Miu Miu board shorts, $260. Select Miu Miu boutiques.

Hermes beach tote, $500. Hermes boutiques nationwide.

Technical sportswear company Macron speeds up design without sacrificing accuracy

Athletes need to move fast and freely. When clothing slows them down, they lose the game. So when sports teams – both professional and amateur–outfit their players, they turn to technical sportswear experts such as Macron, the Italian designer and manufacturer.

Based near Bologna, Italy, with a staff of 75, Macron has specialized in sportswear since the 1970s and is known for its in-depth understanding of and attention to athletes’ needs. “Our daily challenge is to meet the requirements of people who play hard, whether they’re amateurs or professionals,” says Gianluca Pavanello, Macron’s CEO. The company makes uniforms for soccer, rugby, basketball, volleyball, baseball, handball and running teams–more than 8,000 teams overall, including those in the English Football League, wear Macron apparel. In addition, Macron makes clothing, accessories and other merchandise for the professional teams’ fans as well as sports-inspired leisure apparel for armchair athletes everywhere.


The challenges of technical sportswear

Technical sportswear has very unique and demanding requirements. Each sport is different in terms of the athletes’ physical builds and the range of motions required. The inserts that adapt garments for one sport or another must be placed very precisely. In addition, logo placement must be optimized so the logos are visible but do not interfere with the athletes’ motion. Design elements such as stripes, chevrons and numbers must also be placed carefully.

  • Developing athletic wear at Macron is a complex process that begins with an “emotional sketch,” which defines a garment’s look, and continues with a technical sketch, which establishes details such as colorways and also contains the precise information that the patternmaker needs. The pattern-maker then creates a computer-aided design (CAD) from the information in the technical sheet, and the CAD is used to create a prototype of the garment.


  • Only by seeing how the garment fits a model can the designers be certain they have met the customer’s requirements. In most cases, multiple prototypes, followed by multiple adjustments, are required before the design is perfected. Designers, patternmakers, sales and marketing staff, and other specialists all contribute to the process and collaborate with one another to achieve the final result.

Until recently, each prototype had to be sewn and viewed on a live model. Because the designers work under enormous time pressure, the need for these multiple iterations meant that “the race against time is .very close, and you are always late,” in the words of Amedeo Iossa, Macron’s product development manager. Macron’s rapid growth in recent years–revenues increased from 10 million euros in 2005 to 55 million euros in 2011–only intensified. the pressure on designers.

The solution: 3D modeling

To shorten and simplify the development process, Macron decided in 2011 to introduce 3D modeling into this process, using Lectra’s Modaris 3D software.

It joined the 18-month early-adopter program that Lectra was running to monitor the use of 3D modeling. The program included about 40 customers designing different types of clothing at a variety of price points, in markets that ranged from luxury to ready-to-wear to technical sportswear. Each project included one or more season’s worth of collections from the concept to production phase.

Lectra’s virtual fitting room was developed to be as accurate as a live fit session–Iossa says designers can visualize the perfect fit of garments for different sports in 3D–and is practical for both designers and pattemmakers, who can look at the same image and finalize the design before cutting a sample. The avatar can be made to walk, move its arms and legs to different positions, or sit down. Designers can make sure the overall look and proportion are right, while pattern designers adjust the ease, length and tightness; textile designers can review prints, motif placement and graphics.


Pattemmakers can create a flat pattern and see it modeled in 3D right away. Then they can adjust the style either on the 3D image or the flat pattern and see the changes in both views. By working with flat patterns and 3D simulations at the same time, the design and CAD teams ensure that the style and fit decisions they make throughout the development process are reflected in the final product.

3D design saves steps

Like other participants in Lectra’s early-adopter program, Macron found that using Modaris 3D eliminated intermediary paper and fabric prototypes.

“With the 3D solution, we have managed to eliminate various prototyping phases. Now all the departments involved in making a product can work closely together from the first simulation,” explains Iossa. “It saves a lot of time and avoids miscommunication. 3D makes it easier to … visualize the fit of a design adapted for different sports so we can see what works and what doesn’t.”

Physical prototypes are still used for final validation, where they are needed most. Ultimately, according to Iossa, “We need to see the garment worn in order to ensure that the final consumer is comfortable with doing the movetnents and technical sports … we must rely on experience and human intervention on the physical prototype.” But, he says, the designers arrive at this phase with “more certainty and fewer unknowns.”


Michaela Pavanini, Macron’s manager for modeling and CAD design, adds that a new t-shirt design was reached “after several simulations in 3D which cut out several prototypes–by that I mean intermediate prototypes between the first and the last. In the first phase of simulation, we already had a close collaboration with design.”

For the future, Macron is already thinking about new ways to use 3D design for new applications. Iossa says, ‘We may very well also see 3D used for the presentation of collections, both internally to the sales force and to our sports club customers.”

Caption: Sportswear company Macron is using 3D modeling to eliminate steps and reduce prototypes in the design development process.

Caption: Like other participants in Lectra’s early-adopter program. Macron found that using Modaris 3D eliminated intermediary paper and fabric prototypes.

Masha Zager is a New-York based Apparel contributing writer specializing in business and technology.

Group bestows awards on business community leaders

The Real Estate Board of New York will honor these six industry members at its annual banquet on Jan. 19.

The quintessence of residential clout

NAME Barbara Corcoran

TITLE Founder/former chairman, The Corcoran Group

AWARD Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New Yorker

CREDENTIALS Ms. Corcoran started her own real estate firm with a loan of $1,000 when she was 23. After building The Corcoran Group into a multibillion-dollar corporation boasting more than 800 salespeople, she sold the firm to NRT in 2001.

As of last year, Ms. Corcoran is no longer affiliated with the company, but she has become one of the most visible spokespeople in the residential real estate business. In 2003, she published her first book, a national bestseller titled Use What You’ve Got & Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom.

Shaping a career at head of pack

NAME Steven Spinola

TITLE President, Real Estate Board of New York

AWARD Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate

CREDENTIALS Mr. Spinola, a member of REBNY for 20 years, is credited with successfully lobbying for policies that have promoted local economic growth, major citywide development projects, and both commercial and residential construction.

Appointed by Gov. George Pataki to the New York State Real Estate Board, Mr. Spinola is also involved in education programs and seminars for New York University, the Newman Institute and the Manhattan Institute. He has participated in various trade shows and industry conferences as a keynote speaker and moderator.

Before joining REBNY, Mr. Spinola served as president of the city’s Public Development Corp.

Decades of energy keep paying off

NAME Eugene A. Hegy Jr.

TITLE Chairman, Diversified Valuation Group

AWARD Louis Smadbeck Broker Recognition

CREDENTIALS An active broker, appraiser and consultant since 1945, Mr. Hegy is also president of the board at James Lenox House Inc., a nonprofit senior housing facility, and vice president and governor of the National Realty Club. He has been a member of REBNY since 1948 and serves on three of its committees.

Managerial maven makes his mark

NAME Michael Norton

TITLE Managing director, global property management, Tishman Speyer

AWARD George M. Brooker Management Executive of the Year

CREDENTIALS Mr. Norton, who was previously honored with the REBNY Commercial Management Leadership award, is responsible for managing a global property portfolio that includes 43 million square feet of space in 22 regions throughout the United States. The Chrysler Building is among Tishman Speyer’s landmark buildings. Mr. Norton has been with the firm since 1997.

A member of REBNY’s management division board and the Real Estate Roundtable in Washington, D.C., Mr. Norton is also involved with New York’s Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations and BOMA International.

A chief figure in charitable work

NAME Peter L. DiCapua

TITLE Chief operating officer, Atco Properties & Management Inc.

AWARD Kenneth R. Gerrety Humanitarian

CREDENTIALS Mr. DiCapua is a key executive at Atco, a Manhattan-based company that owns and manages a diverse portfolio of real estate in six states. In addition, he is associated with the REBNY board of governors, the New York Building Congress and BOMA.

Mr. DiCapua participates on the boards of several charities that benefit children, including the Long Island Catholic Youth Organization, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and the Diabetes Research Institute. He also sponsors the Peter L. DiCapua Annual Scholarship at New York University.

Acknowledging man on the move

NAME Gary Trock

TITLE First vice president, New York tristate regional retail services team, CB Richard Ellis

AWARD Young Men’s/Women’s Real Estate Association’s Young Real Estate Man of the Year

CREDENTIALS In addition to serving on the local retail team at CBRE, Mr. Trock is involved with REBNY, the YM/WREA and the International Council of Shopping Centers. He has worked for Garrick-Aug Store Leasing and the Insignia/ESG retail group. As an owner’s representative, he has negotiated retail leases for landlords such as Citibank and Tishman Speyer.


Fredric Stollmack is obsessive about the weather. He watches the Weather Channel constantly, and Today show weatherman Al Roker is the celebrity he’d most like to see wearing the coats he sells.

As president of Weatherproof Garment Co., Mr. Stollmack has quietly created a fashion icon over the past four years: a water-repellent jacket for men. Last year, his company sold nearly $45 million worth of the golf-style jackets, which come in 35 colors.


“In a crowded men’s outerwear market, we decided to take a very strong point of view with microfiber,” says Mr. Stollmack, attributing the jackets’ appeal to the fabric and simple styling. “It’s a very classic spring jacket that works well with chinos or can be dressed up.”

He adds that demand for the jackets, which retail for $60, hasn’t peaked yet. Weatherproof expects to sell 2 million of them this year, racking up $60 million in total sales.

But the company knows it can’t count on one style forever. Weatherproof already has wool peacoats and suede walking jackets ready to debut in stores this fall. Plans are in the works to develop men’s sportswear next year, and the company has licensed boy’s outerwear to Daron Fashion Group, which is launching the brand this fall.

“Our challenge now is to successfully evolve the brand into other categories,” Mr. Stollmack says.

Weatherproof is a division of David Peyser Sportswear Inc., a family-run apparel company based in Bay Shore, L.I., that supplies decorated sportswear to golf resort shops and college bookstores. Mr. Stollmack came to the company with years of experience in the apparel industry, including a stint at Campus Sportswear, now defunct.

He says that his background has taught him the value of keeping up with shifting consumer preferences. “We are constantly challenging ourselves to change,” he says.

Firm’s place in the sun

Weatherproof has benefited from a string of unseasonably warm winters, since microfiber is lightweight. What’s more, the fabric has become increasingly popular in all categories of men’s apparel, from dress shirts to pants.

“The company came from nowhere and in a couple of years became a force to be reckoned with,” says Xris Wilson, divisional merchandise manager of men’s sportswear at Macy’s East, which has a Weatherproof shop in its Herald Square store. “What they’ve done with this jacket was not so easy to achieve.”

To back up the product, Weatherproof created a clever ad campaign that gives the brand some personality. Shown without a model, the jacket itself is the star; cute slogans such as “Foul Weather Friends” add punch. Mr. Stollmack has also partnered with the Red Cross, donating about 1,500 jackets to victims of storms and natural disasters.


Now that expansion is brewing, the company has decided it’s time for new ads, and has hired DeVito/Verdi for its next campaign. Weatherproof expects to more than double its ad budget to about $4 million this year, and the new images will debut this fall. Mr. Stollmack has also held preliminary discussions with Mr. Roker about becoming a spokesman.

These efforts underpin Mr. Stollmack’s plan to turn Weatherproof into a full-blown men’s collection. To accommodate the growing product line, Weatherproof recently moved to a 7,000-square-foot showroom, one and a half times the size of its previous space.


Core product washed up?

  • While waiting for its new ideas to take hold, Weatherproof runs the risk that fickle consumers could tire of its core product — particularly now that microfiber is common in menswear. “They dominate in that one item, but the item could die,” says Jack Wu, chief executive of outerwear firm Rainforest.
  • Branching out is not risk-free, either: big brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren have taken over department stores. Mr. Stollmack readily admits that no one needs another men’s sportswearbrand, but says his firm overcame similar saturation in outerwear.

French streetwear brand Brooklyn has teamed up with sportswear giant puma

BWGH has already been doing quite a lot of collaborations. What’s the difference to your new team-up with Puma?

We have done collaborations with Colette, Opening Ceremony, Kitsune, Ronnie Fieg and Clot. They are very great brands but small labels compared to Puma. For example, working with Ronnie Fieg, who is one of my mentors, is totally different: I just meet up with him for lunch and we decide to do things. If they are sold out, then that means it has been a good project. With Puma, things are happening on a whole new level. We have started an ongoing collaboration for a full wardrobe collection like the ones Puma made with Jil Sander or Alexander McQueen. Before we accepted the offer, we spoke about it with the whole team and now it’s a real commitment. We are very anxious about the collection because we are far from being Jil Sander right now-we are just a small group of cool kids, doing our thing. Thanks to Puma, we can do something that we would have never been able to do alone because footwear design is completely different to doing a clothing line. Creating sneakers with a sportswear giant is a childhood dream for me. And thanks to us, Puma will become even cooler because we are a young brand with a lot of energy and dynamism. It’s a winwin situation!


But don’t you fear that BWGH might lose some of its cool by becoming more mass-market?

At the moment, we have around 400 stockists worldwide and there are few brands this size that became a staple. Look at brands like Acne or A.P.C.-they have quite a lot of retailers around the world and they are still cool because what they put in the shelves is still just a really good product with good price points and good brand energy.

Fifteen years ago, this upper street wear culture was really small and indie but thanks to the Internet it became global. So why not be global at this point of time? As long as we are proud of what we do, I don’t care about losing some of my coolness. And as long as I do something with perfection, I hope it will be cool anyways.


What’s the formula for becoming a hip brand?

  • We owe everything to our retailers-without them, there would be no brand. So it’s about selecting the right shops with people full of energy who want to be much more than just a store in a city but rather a small movement. Our ideal stockist is someone who mixes designers like Raf Simons and Damir Doma with streetwear brands such as Stussy.
  • In season one we just showed T-shirts at the trade shows, then sweaters, shirts and finally a full wardrobe. Retailers decided to follow us. And of course our collaborations have helped us a lot image-wise. I also used to be the assistant of Stephane Ashpool of Pigalle, which is the leading streetwear company worldwide to me. By him I learned many things about creating the image of a brand.

There seems to be a rise of avant-garde European streetwear brands in recent years. Where do you see yourselves?

I think on one side you have core US streetwear brands like Supreme, Stussy, Diamond, Huf or Undefeated and on the other side you have European designers who try to be right in the middle between streetwear and high fashion. Supreme & Co have the perfect energy but the garments of brands like Acne are technically much more advanced. Now if you take half the technical skills of the one side and half the energy of the other side, you have exactly what we try to embody.


My label and its style and vision are getting more and more timeless each day. Even if the streetwear community might say it has lost its identity, I don’t think it’s a really big deal because we now have a head-to-toe collection with many timeless pieces, which will in the end help to establish the brand. The importance is to have a solid foundation: if we are still here in five years and even more in 15 years, that will be the true success. I don’t care about the trends and I am not scared of them.

As you now offer a full wardrobe collection-do you plan to launch your own retail?

  • As soon as we have the money, we’ll do it. The problem of wholesale is there is always an intermediation. We can imagine that sometimes a store doesn’t reflect exactly the message we want to give to our consumers. That’s why we absolutely want to develop our own retail network.


  • We are a culturally minded brand, and need the possibility to say: we love art, if you like the atmosphere and what we do, come and be part of our tribe. Last year, we already ran a very beautiful pop-up shop for six months next to l’Institut Francais de la Mode, in Paris. The artist Yves Klein inspired me for the design and all the walls were painted in Klein blue. It can be a nightmare to finance a 100-sq.-meter [1,076-sq.-foot] space like that in a chic neighborhood in Parisbut step by step we’ll get there!

Sportswear firm gets bigger showroom

Management consulting firm Monitor Group is leaving midtown for bigger digs downtown. The Boston-based company recently signed a 15-year deal for nearly 50,000 square feet at 140 Broadway, between Cedar and Liberty streets.

The Monitor Group will relocate from its 34,000-square-foot offices at 650 Madison Ave. by the end of January to take the 49th and 50th floors at 140 Broadway. The asking rent was about $65 per square foot.


The firm, which operates 30 offices around the world, advises corporations, nonprofits and governments on a broad range of topics, from aerospace to tourism.

“We’re seeing more and more of these high-quality names coming downtown,” says Bob Constable, the Cushman & Wakefield Inc. executive director who negotiated the deal on behalf of property owner Union Investment Real Estate, formerly known as DIFA. “It gives a lot of credit to the market.”

The Monitor Group searched Manhattan for a year before deciding on this location, says Eric Thomas, a Studley broker who represented the tenant in the deal. He says the firm chose the downtown site partly so it can expand its offices there at a later date.

Fashion firm finds better fit on 7th Ave.

Tribal sportswear inc., a fashion house that sells to department stores such as Dillard’s and more than 1,800 specialty stores, is packing up its spring 2008 designs and moving to a new location in the fashion district.

The Montreal-based company recently inked a five-year deal for 3,700 square feet at 530 Seventh Ave., at West 39th Street. The asking rent was $55 per square foot.

Tribal Sportswear, which has operated in the city since 1993, is relocating from 1411 Broadway because owner The Blackstone Group did not offer to renew Tribal’s lease.


“This building is more contemporary, and we wanted a bigger showroom,” says Mark Skluth, a Tribal sales manager.

Grant Greenspan represented property owner Kaufman/Adler Realty in the deal, and Monica O’Toole, a broker with Kaufman Organization, negotiated for the tenant.

Entrepreneurs hope for extended run

sandra henry got into the hair-extension business because she was irked at the industry. A fan of long hair herself, Ms. Henry hated spending hours in the salon chair just to watch her extensions fall out or break off in less than two weeks.

With her own hair-extension business, Candyface International, Ms. Henry guarantees that the strands of blond, brunet and ginger will last at least a month. Her firm imports hair from Europe, Brazil and Malaysia and then cleans and dyes it in-house. Prices for a 200-strand section range from about $200 to $400. For the last year, the business concentrated on selling to salons and stylists.

Now, Ms. Henry and business partner Monique Holness are planning to open the company’s first store, Candy’s Hair Lounge, at 3964 Bronxwood Ave., between East 224th and East 225th streets in the Bronx. The retailers chose the Bronx location for its affordable prices–the asking rent was $35 per square foot for the five-year deal.


Property owner MJB leased the 500-square-foot shop to Candy’s Hair Lounge because the store offers a unique service.

“It will help get the area going,” says Elliott Dweck, a Besen & Associates broker who represented Candyface in the deal. Another Besen broker, Matt Mager, negotiated on behalf of MJB.

How much air is left in Nike’s world-famous Jordan brand?

For Jesse Villanueva, it all started in the fall of 1990 with a pair of black and red high-tops. His first Air Jordans, No. VI in Nike’s world-famous sneaker series, were a gift to himself for making the high school basketball team. He wore that pair out–on and off the court–and every year since, Villanueva, now a manager at a boutique sneaker shop in New York City, has purchased at least one pair of the newest Jordans available. His shoe collection grew so large that recently, to reclaim some closet space after getting married, the 31-year-old had to relocate most of it from his cramped Brooklyn apartment to a rented storage unit a few blocks away.


Selling the new Air Jordan XX3 to diehards like Villanueva, who grew up wanting to be like Mike, is easy. It doesn’t hurt that the shoe, being rolled out in three limited-edition waves over the next few weeks as the latest item in the Jordan franchise, could be the last in the series, an assumption based on the fact that Michael wore jersey No. 23. The harder sell for Nike are the kids who have only ever seen Jordan compete in highlight reels and charity golf tournaments. The former Chicago Bull hasn’t played since 2003 and his prime–if forced to narrow it down–dates back to the early ’90s, when some teens were being “rolled” for their Jordans and others literally killed for a pair. The challenge for Nike, aside from the next-to-impossible task of finding an “Air” apparent, is keeping their 44-year-old retired star relevant.

In an obvious attempt to keep their big money-maker current, Nike has linked Jordan in recent years with several of their other bankable stars: New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, light heavyweight boxer Roy Jones Jr. and Denver Nugget forward Carmelo Anthony all have their very own signature series of Air Jordans. The key is finding athletes who are “Jordan-like,” says Paul Swangard, the managing director at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. But that isn’t easy, especially considering that Jordan was an athlete whose incredible feats on the court transcended sport and made him an appealing icon to non-fans.

When Nike signed Jordan in ’84 to a five-year, US$2.5-million deal, pro athletes had been endorsing athletic footwear for some time. Tennis champ Stan Smith, for instance, had been signing his name to a pair of white leather Adidas since 1971. But Jordan changed the sports marketing model. Not even the brightest marketers in the game could have custom-ordered a better pitchman. Oozing charisma, he was as comfortable on the court with Magic Johnson as he was on the big screen with Bugs Bunny. He was generating an estimated US$10 billion of economic activity a year when Nike made the Jordan unit a sub-brand in 1997. And he paved the way for others, like Cleveland Cavalier star LeBron James, who signed a seven-year, US$90-million shoe deal with Nike straight out of high school in 2003.

Today, Nike’s share of the basketball shoe business in the U.S. is an estimated 85 per cent. Last year–four years after Jordan retired–two of the top five-selling shoes in the entire athletic footwear market were Jordans. And yet, many experts think XX3 is the perfect time to tie up the series. “Going out on top of your game is a very good idea” says Matt Powell, an analyst with Sports One Source, a company in Charlotte, N.C. that tracks the sporting goods business. Of course, the end of the shoe line wouldn’t spell doom for the Jordan brand by any stretch. Like it does today, the iconic Jumpman logo will continue to adorn all kinds of sports apparel and accessories. But since Jordan isn’t dunking the ball from the charity stripe anymore, Swangard wouldn’t be surprised if there was a shift from high-performance to high-style.


The brand’s focus, the experts say, will need to be on the myth of Michael. “Become Legendary” is the new tag line, And going forward, there are sure to be plenty of links to the past. This year, in fact, Nike is rolling out countdown packs–each comes with two pairs of retro Air Jordans, their edition numbers totalling 23 (e.g. X and XIII will be packaged together). In the event that XX3 is the final pair of basketball shoes, special editions will likely follow in the years to come, keeping sneaker freaks happy and stretching Jordan’s iconic status well into old age, says Robert Kozinets, a marketing professor at York University, who compares the 14-time all-star’s global appeal with that of Elvis and Marilyn. Jordan, at middle age, may actually be redefining the industry yet again. If Nike handles it well, Jordan could become sport’s first immortal brand–one that gets even stronger the further his playing days fade from memory.