When Roger Federer and Swiss running brand On officially announced their partnership earlier this year, it made waves in the performance footwear world — Federer’s departure from long-time partner Nike was a big deal at the time, and On was relatively unknown. In the following months, On has orchestrated a successful move into the athleisure segment with the launch of its first lifestyle-dedicated model, the CloudNova.
Federer has largely worked behind the scenes since the announcement, but that is about to change come July 6, when Federer and On are hosting a special livestream.
“July 6 there is going to be the big launch, the big announcement, something we've been working on for quite some time now,” Federer tells Highsnobiety. “[Sneakerheads that don’t know On so well] are going to get to know the company in a new way. I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
Federer’s excitement about the announcement carries over into every facet of his work with On: “For me, having an impact with a company like On is really, really exciting. To be there in the workshop room, in the meetings, and hearing about whatever shoe it is, and maybe giving my input... And then, next thing you know, my input is taken incredibly serious and it grows into something quite beautiful. That is very exciting.”
Since swapping Nike for Uniqlo as his on-court outfitter in 2018, the 20-time Grand Slam winner has been without a shoe-deal — almost unfathomable for an elite athlete who is also known to be a sneakerhead. “When the change came, I said, 'I would like to meet the people and brains behind the company that, as a Swiss person, you just know about,'” Federer says, explaining what drew him to On. “I just want to be part of that incredible story because it had a very interesting last 10 years and we hope we can make the next 10 years as exciting.”
Currently, On is establishing itself as a credible player in the lifestyle market, while still delivering its patented high-performance running shoes. That multi-pronged approach extends to the brand’s work with Federer. “We realized [our connection with Roger] is not just performance sports, but also a very deep interest in design and fashion. And then it's also a shared entrepreneurial spirit,” says On CEO David Allemann. “Roger is somebody who has in-depth, technical footwear knowledge, and I think Roger also brings a very multidimensional view to the table.”
That proverbial seat at the table — Federer is financially invested in On — is the main difference to his time with Nike. “I feel like I can give input on any of the lines, the shoes, anything moving forward. I can give my opinion on anything and On can either take it or leave it. I feel like [with] a major brand like Nike, that's literally impossible. It just wouldn't work,” Federer says.
On’s push into lifestyle began in October 2019, when it dropped its first lifestyle sneaker at Tokyo’s atmosCon. Just over six months later and the On CloudNova has been very well-received by the industry. Federer and Allemann believe there is much more to come in that respect: “Sport is not confined just to the weekend anymore, it's just kind of [the] DNA that runs through our whole life,” says Allemann. “I think Roger stands for that; On stands for that.”
“I think, as a Swiss company, it runs in our DNA, that if we do something, we do it right,” adds Federer. “My dream is of course that On expands the collections. But at the same time, we’ll stay very focused and do things right.”
The next step of “doing things right” is the surprise announcement on July 6 — which also happens to be the 17th anniversary of Roger Federer’s first Wimbledon win. Both Federer and Allemann remain tight-lipped about what will be announced. When pressed on whether Federer will ever get a signature On performance for the courts, Allemann says: “What we can share is that any shoe we do together will always have this dual DNA and be inspired by technology on the one side, but then — whether it's on court or off court — they'll have to have a very, very solid design DNA as well.”
Make sure to tune in to theroger.com on July 6 to find out what they have up their sleeves.