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Tonie Ong

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Fashion has come a long way from what it used to be. Before, it was all about refinement, complete with strict silhouettes and embellished designs. Now, it has become the total opposite. Instead of tailored looks, people have embraced free-flowing and shapeless silhouettes. And instead of the rigidness of haute couture, consumers now love the comforts of sportswear. Through the years, sportswear has grown exponentially in the fashion and luxury businesses. It used to be such a niche market, with only athletes as the main consumer target. Now, however, sportswear is a huge part of many luxury brands, and some have are even founded on it, like Puma.

When sportswear brands came onto the scene in the 80’s and 90’s, Puma was one of the leading brands in the market. To this day, they still produce high-quality footwear and athletic gear for the ever-growing sportswear market. From an exclusive consumer audience of athletes and hip-hop artists, Puma has infiltrated the fashion scene with various collaborations with known designers and artists. Their name is now etched on the fashion conversation, with the likes of Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily talking about their latest offerings. And with the industry changing its tides, Puma is sure to be on top for a long time.

How Puma came about

Rudolf Dassler - Founding Father of Puma
Rudolf Dassler – Founding Father of Puma

The multi-billion dollar company was founded by Rudolf Dassler, son of a shoemaker in Nuremberg, Germany. Dassler was the first of his father’s sons to join the company and learned the tricks of the trade. After serving in the German army in World War I, he trained to be a salesman and a trader of leather goods in various businesses in Nuremberg. During this time, he and his brother opened what is now known as Adidas, also one of the premier sportswear and footwear brands in the world. In 1948, Rudolf exited the Adidas company because of many arguments with his brother, and in turn, opened his own sportswear and athletic gear brand which he eventually named Puma.

Throughout the years, Puma and Adidas entered into a bitter rivalry, both trying to usurp each other to be the premier label of their market. The company has sponsored many high-profile athletes, including the West German football team and a number of Olympians. In 1986, the company went public under Rudolf’s sons Armin and Gerd Dassler. They eventually sold 72% of the company’s stake to Cosa Liebermann SA, a Swiss luxury group. By the 21st century, the label began sponsoring NASCAR drivers as well, becoming one of the go-to sportswear brands for high profile athletes. Today, the Gucci group owns 60% of the company’s stake, and the Dassler family have withdrawn completely from the business.

King boots

Through the years, Puma has introduced some of the most famous and most bought athletic gear for the sports industry, but none have been as iconic as their King boots. Released in 1968, the spiked shoes are now considered fundamental for football players who want to improve their game on the field. It debuted as a black and white two-toned shoe but has since been produced in various colors and in different color combinations. In 2008, Puma released King XL, a special edition of the classic pair for its 40th anniversary. King XL features the classic designed but detailed with gold outlines for a more luxurious and upscale look.

Sponsored superstars

PUMA Sponsors Football stars (left to right) Mario Balotelli, Yaya Toure and Macro Reus.
PUMA Sponsors Football stars (left to right) Mario Balotelli, Yaya Toure and Macro Reus. Photo:

Puma is also known for sponsoring prominent athletes in various sports. Football players are their most famous endorsers, the likes of Cesc Fàbregas, Mario Balotelli, Yaya Touré, and Marco Reus, among others. In the world of tennis, they’ve also sponsored legends of the game like Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova. Other athletes include legendary Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, NBA player Clyde Frazier, and track and field gold medalists Linford Christie and Colin Jackson. Outside of the sports world, however, Puma is also sponsoring prominent Kpop boy group, BTS, and has provided them with show-stopping footwear for their concerts, tours, and music videos.

Puma x Fenty

In recent years, Puma has become the talk of the town in high fashion with their collaboration with pop superstar Rihanna. Called “Puma x Fenty” it’s a sporty ready-to-wear line focused on athleisure and fashionable footwear. Rihanna transformed the Puma identity from a sports brand to one of the chicest labels in retail today. She introduced various womenswear pieces, from jersey dresses, ankle boots, side lace leggings, and a number of other pieces that are more fashionable than functional. The line also now shoes at New York Fashion Week, attended by a flurry of celebrities and fashion editors, solidifying Pumas’ new ascent into the high fashion game.

No other sportswear brand has achieved all the milestones Puma has through the years. They’ve become the number one label for several prominent athletes. They’re also one of the first athletic retail brands to gain the respect and prestige of the high fashion community with their collaboration with pop star Rihanna.

Puma’s premium store in Osaka, Japan.
Puma’s premium store in Osaka, Japan. Photo: 2p2play

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