Starter, the well-known sports-apparel brand from the 1990s, is making a remarkable comeback under new ownership. Iconix Brand Group Inc. has licensed the brand to G-III Apparel Group Ltd, who are determined to revive Starter’s old-school styles through new partnerships and endorsements. One potential collaboration being discussed is with Fox Corp.’s United States Football League, which is entering its third season. Additionally, Starter is in negotiations with the Arena Football League, set to resume play in 2024 after a five-year break.

In addition to securing contracts with these leagues, Starter also plans to sign endorsement deals with athletes once their existing contracts expire. Although the specific athletes have not been disclosed, the brand aims to make a significant impact in the sports world.

The president of G-III’s sports division, Carl Banks, is confident in Starter’s comeback. As a former New York Giants player and two-time Super Bowl winner, Banks is determined to restore Starter to its former glory. Nostalgia has been a prevalent trend in fashion, leading to a resurgence of throwback brands. This trend inspired sports-merchandise retailer Fanatics Inc. to acquire Mitchell & Ness last year, a company that specializes in making throwback basketball, football, and baseball jerseys.

While some retro labels have faced challenges, Starter remains a success story. Sales for the brand have increased by almost 20% this year. To further accelerate growth, Banks plans to expand Starter’s reach internationally. Leveraging G-III’s global distribution network, which includes brands like DKNY and Vilebrequin, Starter aims to tap into markets such as China, Australia, South Korea, France, and the Netherlands.

In the United States, Starter already produces fan gear for popular sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and some NCAA programs. In the upcoming fall season, the brand plans to release a new collection in partnership with the NHL.

Starter’s rise to prominence in the 1990s was marked by outfitting teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. The brand became popular with its officially licensed team jackets and snapback caps. Recognizable faces like DJ Jazzy Jeff and Rodney Dangerfield starred in its advertisements, and celebrities like Run-DMC, Diddy, and Joe Montana donned Starter jackets. This pop-culture influence played a significant role in keeping Starter relevant over the years.

However, sales declined in the mid-1990s due to player strikes, and in 1999, Starter filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Nike Inc. acquired Starter in 2004 and distributed its products in Walmart stores. In 2007, Iconix Brand Group purchased the brand for $60 million, and NFL quarterback Tony Romo became its face. In 2012, G-III Apparel Group entered into a licensing partnership with Starter.

Starter’s revival is fueled by nostalgia, as the brand possesses an extensive archive of products spanning over 50 years. From satin jackets to tearaway track pants, Starter plans to tap into its rich heritage. One of the latest revivals is the Bronx bubble jacket, a collaboration with MLB that was unveiled in New York with a party featuring rapper Jadakiss.

Despite the dominance of incumbents like Nike and Adidas, who have exclusive deals with most major leagues, Starter remains undeterred. In addition to exploring opportunities in European football, Banks believes that the brand deserves a presence there as well.

The comeback of Starter showcases the enduring power of nostalgia in fashion. With its iconic designs, the brand is poised to capture the hearts of both loyal fans and new supporters. As Starter plans to make a strong presence in the world of sports once again, it is an exciting time for fans and collectors of the beloved brand.

Useful Links:
1. Iconix Brand Group Inc.
2. G-III Apparel Group Ltd