Highsnobiety

What purpose does a jersey serve? For many, nowadays, it’s no more than an indicator pointing toward a broad understanding of the current style sensibilities curated by our algorithmic overlords—case in point, 2022’s Bloke Core crisis. For others, though, a jersey—nay “The Jersey”—is a treasured emblem of culture and community, a duo of foundational attributes that make up one’s unfeigned essence. 

Champion, Champion, Champion

Picture the unmistakable Yankees’ pinstripes, representative of New Yorkers' relentless dedication. Imagine the glowing gold and rich purple synonymous with the Showtime Lakers of Los Angeles—a transcendent brand ingrained into the city's fabric. Or even visualize the vibrant orange of Ivory Coast’s historic national team seen in the most recent Africa Cup of Nations, a run that hoisted the entire country onto the global stage.  

A jersey is more than a number, a name, or an eye-catching color palette, though. Every stitch, hem, and finish contributes to a larger narrative that paints a robust picture of the person who chooses to rep a certain sect or surname. Akin to the tribal flags of yore—ones that clearly communicated heritage and allegiance—these modern-day markers stand to serve as more than just nifty threads brandished on gameday but as symbols of lifelong bonds and ancestral ties.   

And, as the paragon of cultivating legacy, the Champion brand’s connections run deep when speaking about emblematic garments. For over 100 years, the timeless athleisure arbiter has designed and reissued some of history's most memorable uniforms. From dressing the 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team and becoming the official outfitter of the NBA at the turn of that century to designing custom kits for Italy’s Parma football club and the Welsh national team, Champion recognizes the impact a jersey can have on fostering community. 

During the "Not In Paris" multimedia event series, the classic American icon joins forces with Highsnobiety and West African creative collective La Sunday to manifest an exclusive collection of jersey-inspired garments crafted with a unifying message. 

Highsnobiety / Axle Jozeph, Highsnobiety / Axle Jozeph

Based in the bustling metropolis of Abidjan, La Sunday’s primary objective is to elevate the image of Cote d'Ivoire and its diverse people. Beginning in 2018, the eclectic cohort, which includes descendants of the ubiquitous African Diaspora, began hosting a string of over-the-top affairs to celebrate the common cultural connectors between them and their beloved home. Fast forward to today, and the infectious party series has made stops all over the world, sharing its message of union and inclusivity among all who have enough heart to dance beside them. 

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Pulling from an extensive catalog, Champion channeled a similar ethos embedded in its brand identity to create this bespoke capsule. Leaning on the jersey’s universal nature across diasporic cultures, the powerhouse trio produced a run of Pan-African-coded football kits that include subtle nods to “The Motherland”. Flexing the numbers 225, the Ivorian country code, and Rue Princesse, the iconic avenue in the cultural hub of Abidjan, across the backs, these specialty unis act as commemorative calling cards for La Sunday’s expansive network of proud natives. Completed with a custom t-shirt and long-sleeve boasting the collective’s signature slogans, the coveted "Not In Paris" collection returns to the roots of meaningful design—an aspect Champion has long kept intertwined within its process. 

To underscore the core philosophy of the new "Not In Paris" collection, Highsnobiety gathered La Sunday members Black Charles, Jeune Lio, Aurore Aoussi, and Fayçal Lazraq for a roundtable discussion with Champion’s Global VP of Design Jay Escobara

Jay Escobara: My whole thinking at the start was, let’s pull this thing full circle with you guys and do stuff we like. That’s when the idea for collab jersey designs came up. An ode to Champion’s sports heritage, as well as to La Sunday’s origins. 

Aurore Aoussi: Right. Well, here in the Ivory Coast, where we're from, the jersey was not just something dedicated to sports; it was a part of everyday fashion. We grew up with football culture. So now we see that more people are wearing jerseys as fashion statements, but we grew up with this.

Jeune Lio: I still remember the first jersey I bothered my mother about! It was a Ronaldinho Paris-Saint Germain jersey from around 2000 or 2001. Funny enough, I had a Parma jersey designed by Champion after that. 

Black Charles of La Sunday wears Champion x Highsnobiety x La Sunday NIP collection.
Highsnobiety, Highsnobiety

Fayçal Lazraq: Mine came when I was in football school, a year before the 1998 World Cup in France. We got to play in the stadium, and they gave us the French national jersey for the upcoming year.

JE: Those are amazing connections. My brother was always the guy who was more into jerseys when I was young. But for this collection, I think the jersey-inspired pieces from our collaboration reflect much more than team spirit but also representation. There's so much that's going to be going on this time in Paris around the Olympics, Fashion Week, and Fête de la Musique. And I think we wanted to be able to show everyone ourselves and the beautiful Diaspora that is home for a lot of us. Whether it be through fashion, sport, music, or art. What's really important about this is that it resonates from a place of community.

Black Charles: To your point, there's also a sense of identity embedded within the jersey. For example, we just came out of the AFCON football championship, where Ivory Coast won. So you see a lot of people around here wearing their jerseys with a sense of pride. There's a sense of inclusiveness you feel sometimes.

FL: Like Charles said, it's kind of like an ID; where you're from, who you root with, what you like, what you don't like. It's a statement. 

BC: It's like a pure manifestation of a sense of self towards the world. And I think that's something key where many countries now feel like, “Okay, it's not just the cultural aspects that are known from our country, but how we can represent those aspects within our sportswear?”

JL: It really brings people together, that sense of community, because it doesn't speak to just Ivorian people but everyone involved in the diaspora. People want to be part of that movement. It’s greater than just one person. 

Jeune Lio of La Sunday wears Champion x Highsnobiety x La Sunday NIP collection.
Highsnobiety, Highsnobiety

JE: On that point, it feels like it belongs to both of us and not exclusively to one or the other. And that's what makes any collaboration great; it’s when the excitement is mutually shared and the possibilities are shared. We get to work with people we love, admire, and believe are inspiring new thoughts and pathways.

JL: You guys at Champion are bringing a platform. We are bringing that African energy, that Ivorian energy, and the energy of Abidjan into focus. We are all hustlers. 

AA: [Champion] really made a volunteer effort to listen and help us represent what we wanted. You took the time to understand us. It can humble you to see that such a big brand is listening to you and wants you to express yourself through it. 

JE: There was no way I would pull up in Paris and not work with La Sunday. It's almost like if you came to LA or New York and didn't reach out, I would be heart hurt. I think for Not in Paris, we just turned up the fucking heat. Building together is amazing; we want that momentum to continue. But it's great, and I couldn't be more proud of our project together.

AA: Well, if we’re talking about keeping the momentum going, there’s so much more we can do, especially for the culture.  

JE: Hell yeah! Let’s get something together.

JL: The sky is the limit. We love to give back to the youth and elevate them; showing them they can do whatever they set their minds to.

BC: It’s Abidjan over everything. You already know.

Discover more from the Champion x Highsnobiety x La Sunday collaboration here.

  • Creative DirectorNikki Mirsaeid
  • Creative LeadBrandon Bostic
  • Senior EditorCzar Van Gaal
  • Talent Business ManagerElise Sullivan
  • Account DirectorJohanna Gerhardt
  • Senior Account ManagerJasmine Hill
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