The 90s called and said they want their Kappa back? Too bad, we’re keeping it.
2016 marks 100 years since Italian sportswear business behind Kappa was established. With a Peking Duk collaboration hitting the shelves at Glue Store – and a resurgence in the making – we take a look into one of the world’s most iconic brands to see where they’ve come from, and where they’re going.
When Kappa was first established a century ago in 1916, it was a humble sock and underwear company.
Things seemingly chugged along pretty well for a few decades, and by the mid-50s sales were soaring. Kappa was named the undisputed leader in Italy for socks and jocks.
In the late 60s recession hit, desecrating many companies around the world. Keenly aware of how other major brands had folded, Kappa took action. The company expanded their range and diversified production, and by the end of the decade they had secured their future and re-branded as a casual clothing manufacturer.
Going from strength-to-strength, Kappa sponsored soccer teams in Italy and Amsterdam in the 1970s. Kappa hit the world stage – and the worldwide market – in the 80s, when they supplied uniforms for the athletes at two consecutive Olympic Games.
THE HEY DAY
Kappa’s popularity hit maximum intensity in the 1990s, and their iconic Omnia logo was seen everywhere. Clothing, hats, bags, keychains and footwear all sported the recognisable silhouette image of a man and woman sitting back-to-back.
Its rise in mainstream popular culture continued to climb, as anyone who was anyone was seen wearing the unmistakable thick Kappa tape on their sleeves or pants legs.
Kappa did what many brands could not – it bridged the great pop culture divide between alternative and mainstream.
In the mainstream corner, “Sporty Spice” Mel C lead the charge with her penchant for platform boots and Kappa trackies. While, over in the alt-rock corner the frontman of Blur, Damon Alburn, was often seen donning a Kappa jacket.
This all-encompassing assault led to the explosion in popularity, and one of the most common pieces was the snap-closure pants. The innovative design featured a row of press-close studs down the outer side of each pant leg, and was intended for athletes to wear over their sports gear so they could arrive for training and whip off them off without needing to head to a change room.
However, as snap-button trackies became a staple of fashion-conscious teens everywhere, the real point of discussion was how many studs to leave undone at the end, in order to mimic the extremely popular bell-bottom jeans of the time, with a street-inspired twist.
THE AWKWARD PHASE
Like all iconic trends before and since, Kappa went through an awkward phase.
In the 2000s, as the trend filtered through to the masses, Kappa streetwear was being worn by the biggest comedians of the day. Both Sasha Baron Cohen and Matt Lucas dressed in Kappa when lampooning typical British youth culture.
THE KAPPA COME BACK
The light never dimmed for Kappa’s sportwear, outfitting football teams globally and sponsoring players across the world.
As the current taste-makers and fashion elite cast their eyes back to the 1990s for inspiration, it’s no surprise that Kappa is starting to pop up all over celebrity and socialite social feeds.
The first glimmer of a come-back was in 2015 when one of the dancers is Justin Bieber’s viral video for ‘Sorry’ was wearing the familiar Banda jacket from Kappa.
Since then we’ve seen the likes of Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and the new host of America’s Next Top Model, Rita Ora, have all stepped out in their favourite Kappa throw-backs.
We’ve also seen Kim Kardashian teaming snap-closure pants with heels and a bustier, breathing new life in to the 90s staple that Kappa was renowned for and fanning the flames of the come-back fires.
Most recently Kappa hit us with their SS17 collection, which features their classic designs with modern tapered cuts and subdued hues.
If you're like us, and love a good come-back story (Hello Britney Spears!), then Kappa is the brand to watch in 2017.
Words: Paige Maris + Alexander Elsey