If you’re between the ages of say, 30 and 42, you likely have fond memories of the Starter athletic company. Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Starter was a hot ticket. It dominated the fashion marketplace and became synonymous with edgy streetwear, dope sports teams and hip-hops rise into the mainstream understanding. For kids back then, a Starter jacket in 1990 is akin to rocking a Louis Vuitton joint nowadays. You wore it with confidence everywhere you went.
However, by the mid ‘90s the label had grown tired, unable to keep up with the burgeoning labels dominating the tastes of young folks. Starter essentially vanished into the ether, only worn by oldheads who never got rid of their original jackets.
For anyone with positive thoughts about Starter’s history, the last few months have been promising. Starter is back, with new styles and materials, and is poised to reclaim some of the market share lost nearly 20 years ago. Carl Banks, former Giants LB extraordinaire and president of sports apparel firm G-III, is the person in charge of marshaling Starter’s revival. We spoke to Banks recently about the future of the brand.
TSL: What’s different about Starter’s new incarnation?
BANKS: Starter is more than just an athletic brand. It is a true lifestyle brand that resonates with our sports fan and style conscious consumer. Our re-launch centers on the iconic Starter satin jacket and pullover breakaway styles with updated and modernized silhouettes – allowing the jackets to fit true to size.
TSL: Does Starter have licenses for all NBA, NFL and MLB franchises? What about MLS?
BANKS: Starter has licenses for all leagues including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA and NHL. MLS is certainly an opportunity that we are discussing and would like to see in the future. Our goal is to have prominence across all major sports.
TSL: What’s behind the timing? Why now?
BANKS: The ‘90s are making a huge comeback. Starter jackets were such an iconic staple of the era, we decided the timing was perfect to introduce them to a new generation, and reintroduce them to those who have an emotional connection and nostalgia for them.
TSL: Has Starter kept any old attributes that fans from the ‘80s and ‘90s would recognize or appreciate?
BANKS: Yes, absolutely, we really took this to heart when re-launching the jackets. We upheld the same quality and craftsmanship that made the jackets desirable and durable as fan and fashion staples. We actually went with the same trim and fabric suppliers that were used for the original jackets. Additionally, we added a second inside pocket with a zipper to accommodate today’s iPhones and smartphones. Lastly, we added the Starter logo to the jacket sleeve.
TSL: What is the marketing plan to compete in this new marketplace?
BANKS: Starter’s messaging blends sports authenticity and pop culture through various mediums including social media, out of home advertising, television and radio advertising, select partnerships with brand ambassadors, in-arena marketing and advertising. We have also had huge celebrity support with the likes of Victor Cruz, Terrell Owens and Justin Bieber.
TSL: What is Starter’s best-case scenario?
BANKS: Our goal simply put is to be the best in class. To do so, we are concentrating on quality, and leveraging our heritage to attract new and old customers and to continue to grow the business into a full-fledged lifestyle brand.