History of Fila Shoes

by Kristeen Cherney

Fila has been an evolving shoe and apparel brand, with its shares of ups and downs. Ranked third behind Nike and Reebok, the once-modest company with its family start is in the middle of transforming itself into a brand of the elite. A maker of shoes and apparel, Fila is still a top choice for many athletes, both professional and recreational.

The Facts

Fila is a maker of athletic footwear, famous for its basketball, tennis, cross-training and running shoes. Although shoes are the company’s primary breadwinner, it also produces athletic wear, mostly tennis and golf clothing, as well as gear for winter sports. All products are for men, women and children. Fila is based out of Italy, and its production lines are in East Asia. The company mission is to market its products to athletic individuals who participate in sports as a way of life.

Beginnings

The history of Fila began in 1911, when two Italian brothers, the Filas, created the company as an underwear manufacturer. In the 1970s, the company, with director, Enrico Frachey, turned its focus towards sportswear and athletic shoes, attempting to compete with Nike and Reebok. Fila had its first endorsement from tennis player Bjorn Borg, who started to wear clothing that featured the Fila logo. Borg went onto win 11 titles, all while wearing Fila tennis apparel. His support put the Fila brand in a state of new-found worldwide recognition.

1990s

Fila was supported by various athletic endorsements throughout the rest of the 1970s and into the 1980s. However, the brand fell short in popularity in the United States, falling far behind Nike and Reebok. It was not until 1994, when NBA star Grant Hill endorsed Fila shoes, that the brand became popular in the U.S. Fila then joined the ranks of the other two big shoe name companies, and was successful throughout the mid-1990s. Fila also gained recognition through skier Alberto Tomba, who won the gold medal in the 1994 World Cup.

Potential

Fila shoes and apparel suffered from years of weakening sales after its peak performance in the 1990s. The company has since tried to re-establish itself as an athletic brand for the elite, not just the average performer. In 2006, Fila launched a sophisticated golf line, called Fila Biella Collection, which includes both shoes and apparel. Fila joined forces with the Global Leading Brands House in 2007. The GLBH is a fashion organization that aids companies in developing high-end products. In another effort to establish itself as a more upscale brand, Fila moved its headquarters to Milan, Italy.

Famous Ties

There have been many famous athletes that have aided in putting Fila on the global map. In 1982, golf player Tom Watson won the British Open, all while wearing Fila clothing. In 1986, Reinhold Messner became the first to embark on a hike on Mt. Everest without taking any additional oxygen with him. He wore mountain gear from Fila. In 2005, tennis player Kim Clijsters won the US open and sported Fila tennis shoes and apparel.