European fashion has often been the starting point for global trends. When the name Fila is mentioned, a litany of memories come to mind.

Depending on the culture you have most experience with, when you were born, and where you grew up, your memory of Fila is likely to be very different from someone whose demographics don’t match yours. The story of the brand’s origins and its more than 100 years of history testify to the flexibility and greatness of what Fila was and is.

Fila Grant Hill 2.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Fila

The beginning

In 1911, two brothers from the small town of Biella located at the foot of the Italian Alps realized the dream of creating a place for themselves in industry. Ettore and Gianservo Fila originally opened their own textile store to supply sewing materials and fabrics to townspeople. After 10 years as a textile supplier, the brothers had gained enough experience and networking to take the next step. This step took them from supplying materials to teaming up with Maglificio Biellese to start creating their own pieces which included beautiful sweatshirts, scarves and sweaters.

Accustomed to the grind, the brothers earned a reputation for durable, stylish and fashionable clothing. As news of the brothers’ magnificent offerings spread throughout Italy, the idea of ​​expansion became more tangible. Biellese and the brothers merged with the Fratelli Fila company, which was another clothing manufacturer looking to expand, in 1942, and the group took the name Fila. The newly bolstered company ended up enjoying another quarter century of success in the knitting space.

Developing the brand

Fila experienced immense growth during this time and sought to expand even further. Throughout this period, there were not a huge number of options on the sportswear market. As the spreads’ popularity grew along with its accessibility, the Fila Collective became an opportunity to tap into the emerging market. With this in mind, Giansvero Fila hired Enrico Frachey as the company’s general manager in 1968. He believed Frachey already had a healthy respect for the brand and understood the company’s vision to expand into the apparel business. sport. In just four short years, Fila had grown into a billion lira business, the Italian currency at the time.

However, a few more additions were needed to ensure that the launch into the sportswear sphere was as successful and actually functional for athletes. Giansvero Fila has hired artistic designer Pier Luigi Rolando and technical director Alessandro Galliano. With the new additions to the team, Fila aimed to crush activewear with aesthetically pleasing and athletically preferable pieces.

Fila had gaudy goals not only to create sportswear, but also to raise awareness of the brand globally. Already known for its beautiful pieces and originally born in Italy, the brand had to be intentional in its alignment with sport and sporting personalities. During this period, only a few sports would offer the possibility of international appeal while remaining true to the high-end category. Tennis was the perfect sport to tick those boxes. It was an excellent cross-section of country club demographics and high global exposure. Fila learned about tennis, but wanted to do it his own way. They immediately caused a stir with the release of the “White Line” collection in 1973, which was a sarcastic nod to staunch traditions of acceptable dress code for sports. The pieces in the collection were conservatively styled, but moved away from the all-white outfits tennis players had worn to date by placing the brand’s navy and red colors on off-white polo shirts. More importantly, the collection put the Fila “F” logo on TV screens around the world.

The perfect match

Fila’s instant acceptance in the tennis world led to an endorsement deal with Bjorn Borg. It was a match made in brand expansion heaven as Borg won on one of the sport’s biggest stages, Wimbledon, for five straight years from 1975 to 1980. While his victory helped, it is his fearless personality that made Borg the perfect billboard to announce Fila’s arrival as a new global contender in sportswear, as he shamelessly broke with the norms of elite tennis fashion. and rocked Fila while doing so.

The late 80s and 90s saw another sport begin to gain massive global appeal. Basketball burst onto the scene and grew rapidly under the leadership of David Stern. Fila saw another opportunity to expand their brand and signed Hersey Hawkins, Jerry Stackhouse and Jamal Mashburn. The biggest signing, however, came when they were able to woo Duke Blue Devils superstar Grant Hill in 1994. Two years earlier, Fila had already started seeing streetwear success with the FX-100 which was available in a multitude of colors to match the colorful style of the time. Hill’s endorsement, however, provided critical validation of the brand’s viability as a basketball shoe. The Grant Hill 1 was a favorite and took Fila to a new stratosphere that had previously been owned by Nike and Adidas. However, the Grant Hill 2 has moved into the hip-hop world with its unique patent leather pattern around the upper. One of the most iconic cultural images of all time features 2Pac rocking the Grant Hill 2 in the liner to his classic album, “All Eyes on Me.”

Fila Disruptor 2 sneakers, history of fila brand sneakers

Fila Disruptor 2


The future of Fila

Fila’s presence in the basketball world hasn’t been as impactful as they had hoped. The lack of tech specs made it difficult to keep up with brands that had athletic backgrounds and a plethora of athlete endorsements. Although less and less popular, Fila was still there. Shoes, sweatshirts and tracksuits were always accessible. This perseverance has paid off as Fila has seen quite the resurgence in recent years, especially with the Disruptor. The chunky sneaker trend has created the right space for the Disruptor 2 to flourish as an affordable chunky shoe option.

Fashion is a funny thing. What two brothers started as a textile label in a small town in Italy ended up rising to the upper echelons of the sportswear world and leaving an indelible mark on street fashion.