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What makes Fila unique is its attitude and aura of Italian heritage and workmanship, says Abdon Lepcha of Fila

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Images Business of Fashion interacts with Abdon Lepcha, the creative director of South Korean athleisure brand Fila

Bengaluru: Fila says it has been able to balance the product manufacturing locally versus import in its portfolio. The apparel manufacturing contribution is 80% India and 20% import. The brand is operated under Metro Brands since it was bought over from Batra Group. Fila will be present across all Metro and Mochi stores, Abdon Lepcha, the brand’s creative director informs Images Business of Fashion. Excerpts

Tell us more about product diversification that has happened at brand Fila.

As a Fashion Sportswear brand, the mantra has been “without beauty, there is no performance”, and as it rightly put, the products are an amalgamation of beauty, style and performance. The product portfolio consists of apparel, footwear and accessories under which most of the lifestyle, sportswear and athleisure styles are covered.

In the apparel segment, the products range from crop and tank tops for women, sweatshirts, sweathoodies, jackets and joggers are important silhouettes that cover most of the athleisure pillar. Along with these fashion silhouettes, styles are introduced to give the x factor to the collection. Sneakers as an overall blanket covers the footwear category under which we have differentiated products like the tennis-inspired court sneakers, triple black and white sneakers, chunky silhouettes, fashion and style infused products for daily lifestyle and new innovative products for outdoor run or training.

Which product categories are the best performing in the Indian market?

In footwear, chunky sneakers, classics, court sneakers, outdoor and retro. In apparel, tennis lifestyle, terrace wear, unicolor sets, normcore looks, tech and tennis.

Share with us the impacts (in terms of product demand, visibility and designs) Fila has experienced after its collaboration with Hailey Bieber.

The Fila x Hailey Bieber collab came as a limited edition range. The iconic archival styles such as crewneck sweatshirts pieces and tops were specifically designed and curated based on her style personality and the Fila DNA. The products were visible on all our platforms and the response has been surprisingly good considering the price was on the higher side. Indian consumers have evolved to understand the value of limited editions and the desire to own has increased.

What kind of manufacturing arrangement do you have in India? How much do you source locally?

As a brand, we have been able to balance the product manufacturing locally versus import in our portfolio. The apparel manufacturing contribution is 80% India and 20% import. We have partnership and ties with Indian factories who fulfill most compliances and have the expertise to make differentiated products and play with different materials as well. For footwear, we are working towards having a higher percentage of production in India not only due to BIS but also have products made in India which would help with the overall growth of the domestic economy. The footwear manufacturing in India is in an upward trajectory with the BIS being implemented, but currently there are challenges of procuring differentiated materials and trims but in due course of time, we will be able to find ways to improve and innovate.

How do you see Fila being positioned in India’s sportswear market heavily dominated by brands like Adidas, Nike and Puma? How much market share are you eyeing in 2023-24?

The sportswear market is filled with sportswear brands that have been present for a long time. FILA is considered a sportswear brand but the X factor lies in the fashion and style aspect with a rich heritage and culture. The brand has its own strengths and we will capitalize on that placing it in the mid to premium price segment and for a young consumer.

Please tell us about the operational arrangement you have in place with Batra Group and Metro Brands.

The brand completely operates under Metro Brands since it was bought over from Batra Group.

Tell us about your retail strategy and store expansion plans.

Currently our focus lies in connecting with our consumer. FILA will be present across all Metro and Mochi stores and will invest in key Ȅ agship stores across cities.

How do you view the Indian sportswear market in terms of growth, challenges and brands’ positioning?

India as a country is quite young in terms of pure performance sports and people have taken health as a major focus area. Pure activewear is still at its nascent stage but the sportswear lifestyle/athleisure has grown many folds. We have seen new younger brands as well as other category brands from formalwear to casual wear foray into the athleisure/sportswear category to take a piece of the pie.

As per recent studies, the sportswear industry in India is excepted to grow at 8-12% CAGR by 2026, which shows a healthy growth in this segment. As the sportswear market size increases, so does the opportunity to capitalize and grow as a brand as well. As a brand, we will focus on bringing freshness, style with premium quality to sportswear and fashion athleisure.

What separates Fila from other sportswear brands is the attitude and aura of Italian heritage and workmanship.

This article first appeared in IMAGES Group’s Business of Fashion Magazine June 2023 issue

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