In-play

BOSS and Russell Athletic bring tailoring to the sports field
Photography Isaac Anthony
Fashion Zach Mauer

With over 200 years of history between them, BOSS and Russell Athletic’s roots may lie in different fields, but their paths have natural intersections. Both innovators in their respective fields, now they partner-up on a collaborative pre-fall collection.

Discovering balance in the dichotomy, BOSS’ relaxed suiting is translated across Russell Athletic’s Americana sportswear, as the tracksuit becomes the equivalent of a tailored suit and lightweight jersey fabrics become refined essentials. Combining codes of class and creativity, of the establishment and the new wave, for a generation finding equal comfort on-field and off.

Unpicking the details within the collection, we speak to chief brand officer at Hugo Boss, Ingo Wilts – discussing his teenage connection to Russell Athletic and fulfilling a long-held dream of experimenting with a sportswear heritage.

GALLERY

Finn Blythe: Can you tell me about your personal relationship to Russell Athletic? What are your first memories of the brand?
Ingo Wilts: My first interaction with Russell Athletic was really when I went to New York at eighteen. Actually, the first sweatshirt I bought in the US was from Russell Athletic, so we go way back. Then in 2020, when I was looking for a new collaboration, I was thinking about this trip and how much I loved that sweatshirt. So it was kind of a personal story and then I contacted the people from Russell.

FB: What were those initial discussions like – how did you introduce the project?
IW: When I got in touch with the Russell UK team about the project in January 2020, I told them about my dream of working on a collaboration. We didn’t have any designs or anything, but I just met the guys and said, “I’ve always had the dream of bringing a sportswear brand, with a big heritage, together with our brand. Our heritage is the suit but I want a suit in your materials, a jersey fabric, like coats in jersey or pleated pants in jersey.”

This whole casualisation trend was still in the air but really hit a high point when the pandemic came. However, our idea was really born in early 2020 and the team immediately liked it. So we started designing the collection and I said, “I know my heritage but I don’t know yours,” and they sent over tons of archive pieces, going all the way back to the 60s and 70s.

We looked through the archive and elements of their current collections to see how we could implement both brands on a logo sweatshirt, how the logos in general will look together and how we can design the collection. My idea is always to have our heritage alongside theirs, so it can be a jersey suit but then with a hoody, it can be shorts with a tailored coat but then also with a sweatshirt.

“I’ve always had the dream of bringing a sportswear brand, with a big heritage, together with [BOSS].”

all clothing and accessories by BOSS X RUSSELL ATHLETIC PF21

FB: It’s interesting you mention the pandemic, did you feel it almost gave you a green light to explore new ways of dressing?
IW: Yes and no. When I started to talk to them about collaborating there was no pandemic. But as you say there was a very green light at one point, and for me personally, my way of dressing totally changed over the last year. I mean, when I’m in the office I’m still wearing turtlenecks but my pants are woolen with drawstrings, which comes from a sportswear influence.

FB: When you were looking back at the archive pieces from the 60s and 70s, what struck you most about their aesthetic?
IW: For us, it was this very relaxed way of dressing. We never had tight pants at this time, everything was a little bit looser, the sweatshirts were a little oversized, everything was from their side very casual. Then we just have to put more design thoughts into it and think about how we can bring this back into the new way of dressing right now. It’s basically the same nowadays. We try to get as casual as possible, we need comfort.

“…for me personally my way of dressing totally changed over the last year…”

all clothing and accessories by BOSS X RUSSELL ATHLETIC PF21

FB: Which elements of the BOSS archive did you want to carry though to this capsule?
IW: When we looked into our archive of a similar period we were a pure clothing brand. Our sportswear business was properly developed in the late 90s. So when we revisited the archive and looked at coats from Michael Flinn [a former Hugo Boss campaign model], our suits were a little bulkier in the 70s. We brought these pieces, core heritage items like the suit and the coat, and combined it with their heritage – that’s what I think makes this collaboration so interesting.

FB: Aside from your own affection for Russell Athletic, was it ever a brand you’d seen as sharing similar values to BOSS? 
IW: We looked at this and the values we saw always stood for success. There was always this sport element: to succeed and be the best, and I think this is also one of our values. On different levels it’s also craftsmanship. They demonstrate a lot of craftsmanship with their embroideries, as we do with our product here in Germany. So there are certain things where their values really match ours.

FB: Are there any particular items you feel especially proud of or embody what it is you were trying to do with this collaboration?
IW: I think the basketball element of this collection is very relevant for a younger customer and I like the pieces that younger people wear at the moment. So the hoodies and sweatshirts, which are bright and beautiful with big logos. I think the sportier pieces are my favourite, which is a little bit removed from our heritage but it gives a younger approach which is what we want to do.

Shop the Boss x Russell Athletic collection now.

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