Brand to Watch: Russell Athletic Archive

June 03, 2013 BY OBI ANYANWU

Russell Athletic Archive is one brand to keep an eye on this season at Capsule Paris. The company that was founded by Benjamin Russell in Alabama in 1902 is the mastermind behind wool undergarments like long johns and sweatshirts, and invented the t-shirt that we wear today. Russell provided clothing not only for athletes but also for the military. During World War II, the brand’s ‘Athletic’ Division was contacted directly by the United States Military to deliver clothing for the Army and Navy.

In the 60’s, Russell Athletic became the official uniform brand for several sports like basketball, football, baseball, softball, and volleyball, for both collegiate and professional leagues. The brand was popular on college campuses, which in turn made Russell’s sweatshirts and t-shirts staple streetwear pieces during the 70’s and 80’s and into today.

Today, we have been introduced to Russell’s vintage sportswear line, Russell Athletic Archive. The line draws its inspiration from the brand’s sportswear collections of yesteryear. Russ Gater and Daniel Savory, the designers behind Heritage Research, are the heartbeat of the line. Gater told us, "We were approached quite some time ago as we were known as collectors of vintage Russell Athletic garments and subsequently began working on the logistics of how we could bring the World's most iconic athletic wear brand back with integrity and care." They have looked to Russell’s archives to recreate the brand’s energy and spirit from the past. All pieces retain the style and fabrics from the original garments bringing a piece of early 20th century American sportswear to the present.

This season, Russell Athletic Archive will be collaborating with world-famous, master craftsman John Lofgren. "Our biggest concern was to ensure authenticity and accuracy, this took us to Japan and master garment maker John Lofgren," said Gater. Lofgren is a major player in workwear and classic American design. Originally from California, Lofgren now resides in Northern Japan where he works with Japan’s best craftsmen. Gater added, "He has been the catalyst for ensuring absolutely no compromises were taken in production - to the point where he actually sought out and utilised original looms from the Alexander City factory that now reside in Japan." The John Lofgren for Russell Athletic collaboration will serve as the brand’s top tier collection. The Athletic Archive line is for shoppers with an affinity for the old school and a keen eye for detail, and also for the straightforward that seek comfortable, cool, and effortless clothing.

Be on the lookout for Russell Athletic Archive at Capsule Paris.