It’s hard to believe that such a forward-looking brand could be over a century old, but the label that was to become Kappa was founded in Turin, Italy, in 1916 by Abramo Vital under the name Maglificio Calzificio Torinese.
Originally a manufacturer of socks and underwear, its evolution into one of the world’s biggest sportswear brands has been an interesting one: The “K” first appeared in 1958 when the “K-Kontroll” label was used as a guarantee of quality. This gave rise to the Kappa name we are familiar with today. Ten years later, the iconic “Omini” logo was born—by accident!
During a swimwear photoshoot the photographer was struck by the backlit silhouettes of a pair of male and female models seated back-to-back. Soon it was adopted as Kappa’s logo, representing the mutual support between man and woman. So when the textile industry was hit by recession in 1969, during a period of huge social change that saw students popularising casualwear, it was time to diversify from socks: its “Jesus Jeans” label became a huge hit. In 1973, the classic Pique Polo was introduced, and it’s still one of the world’s bestselling polo shirts.
At the end of the 70s, Marco Boglione joined the company, expanding into sportswear and sponsoring the major football teams of the day. As the internet began to take off, Boglione was quick to spot its potential, establishing BasicNet: a virtual company, it manufactures nothing itself, but simply develops collections and market its brands, which are then licensed for manufacture across its global network. Always evolving, always looking for creative solutions, this kind of dynamism is what makes Kappa the perfect partner for #athleisurebeats, the Swarovski Athleisure Collection SS18 campaign. We caught up with the energetic brand to get their take.
Is athleisure having a moment, or is it a cultural shift that’s here to stay?
It’s having huge growth right now, but the massive shift towards dressing casually started in the 1960s when the formal dress codes were broken. People began to express their personality through their clothes.
Is this look targeted purely at the youth market?
The change involves all ages and genders, so the whole fashion business is now focused on an active lifestyle.
Outside the creative industries, have employers begun to accept it as office wear yet? Is it possible to combine athleisure with tailoring for a business look?
Everybody has accepted this change, often without thinking about it, because that’s what the market offers. It is not unusual to see someone combining office wear with a pair of sneakers.
What role do you see crystals playing in athleisure?
We collaborated with Swarovski in the Noughties on a sponsorship project with Mascalzone Latino, an Italian yacht racing team. We found that whenever we use Swarovski crystals the clothes are elevated into the realms of luxe-wear—luxury is in Swarovski’s DNA.
For a while now, the press have been saying that sustainability is the future of fashion. Can athleisure help make sustainability cool?
Since 1995, our collections have been designed and developed online, without using paper. We run everything online, with a virtual warehouse. As pioneers, starting when environmentalism was not yet a strong global trend, we’ve been considering the environment for more than 23 years. Sustainability now involves everyone—we all must really do our bit.