Lionel Messi adds loungewear, Green Line to clothing brand – WWD
PARIS — Not even the COVID-19 pandemic can let Lionel Messi or his premium lifestyle brand down.
The onset of the pandemic shortly after the brand’s launch in late 2019 threw a spanner in the works of initial plans, which included early expansion in Asia. But a rapid shift to e-commerce proved to be a winning strategy, Maximiliano Ojeda, chief executive officer of MGO Global’s brand portfolio, told WWD.
On opening day, the elite footballer’s fans were so numerous that the website crashed on launch. Since then, the brand has seen visitors from almost every territory and shipped orders from 110 countries, with the US taking 50 percent of the business.
“We are very happy that our community is so engaged and supports our brand,” said the Argentine soccer star, who is considered one of the most successful soccer players of all time.
The 18- to 24-year-old consumer age group also paved the way for an app, a logical next step that has been equally successful, according to Ojeda, who revealed that it has been downloaded around 500,000 times by users in 60 countries since its launch on Black Friday 2020.
It also revealed a surprising fact: the 30 percent share that female consumers make up.
“Not only mothers buy for children, wives or girlfriends. Many of our items are unisex because women are now wearing cool streetwear, tracksuits and hoodies,” said Ginny Hilfiger, the brand’s creative director and MGO’s chief creative officer.
When asked what was the linchpin of this meteoric success, Ojeda credited Messi’s talent and humility, noting that the desire of both the athlete and the company is to “bring out the Messi in everyone and inspire everyone who want to be inspired”.
Messi’s move from Barcelona to French team Paris Saint Germain in 2021 was according to the executive and athlete who felt like “joining [the Parisian team] didn’t change the aesthetic of our brand, but made it accessible to a larger audience.”
“Luckily I used Argentina’s light blue, Barcelona’s red and some navy blue, so a lot of our signature details carried over to PSG,” joked Hilfiger, who described the Parisian style as “casual but elegant”.
This translates into well-tailored quilted jackets or sporty separates that look smart enough for a casual day at the office. Messi wore a polo shirt with black sweatpants and could have been preparing for a business meeting or going to training.
Items featuring his shirt numbers 10 – his position both at Barcelona and Argentina national team – and 30 – which he wears at PSG – are also likely to prove particularly popular.
Current sales figures and growth trends prove this. Ojeda declined to give any numbers, but did reveal that the brand grew its business by double digits month-on-month.
“It’s certainly exploded in terms of reach, how well the brand is being embraced in this market, and [has] obviously made it easier to become a new emerging international brand fighting for its own place in the great ocean of brands like Lacoste,” the executive continued.
This will continue, particularly in the US where the sport is growing rapidly and given the rapid succession of the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar starting in November, the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023 and the 2026 Men’s World Cup in USA, Canada and Mexico.
Ojeda therefore expects the year ahead to be exciting and the brand’s retail plans reflect this, starting with a loyalty program that is set to open within a few months.
With borders opening up, physical retail is also back on the table, although the brand is moving at a cautious pace.
As part of a partnership with travel retail specialist Duty Free Americas, two locations have opened in the duty-free zones on the Uruguay-Brazil border. A third is due to open later this month, with the brand sitting between Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
The presence of department stores in Latin America will soon follow, in Mexico, Chile and of course Argentina. Talks are also underway with a retailer in North America, Europe and the Middle East, but Ojeda declined to specify whether the schedule would coincide with November’s World Cup.
The pandemic had another unexpected side effect: even a football superstar like Messi “spends more time at home with my family in casual, comfortable clothes,” the athlete said, which spilled over into his desire for “quality, comfort and versatility” to be a priority every collection.
Think of the loungewear, swimwear and underwear categories introduced in this iteration, along with socks that the athlete playfully presented during the shoot by flipping his feet up on a sofa.
This second chapter is also about stripping down the aesthetic of Messi’s fervent community of supporters and fans around the world.
“We’re learning that [our customers] like the younger vibe, like graphics based on Leo’s tattoos or bolder, more creative versions of the logo,” said Hilfiger, noting the newly launched oversized versions of the logo and the presence of geometric designs reminiscent of soccer balls.
Ojeda added that building a brand is “all about building a community, learning from and connecting with our customers and fans.”
Also part of this second chapter is ‘The Messi Green Line’, launched this spring with the idea that ‘waste is a design flaw’, which is explained in a manifesto printed on a shirt.
Easily recognizable by bold graphics or subtle green accents like tie-tabs and waistband patches, this line of sustainable products cut from dead textiles currently makes up about 10 percent of the collection, Hilfiger says, and will gradually become a much larger part of their business.
Going forward, the collection’s classic core will remain, complemented by “a layer of cool, fun streetwear” and later “a high-end collection of casual, tailored menswear and functional outerwear,” said Messi. Children’s fashion, accessories and home products are also on the program. Sneakers, cleats and sportswear stay off the cards due to his deal with Adidas.
Ojeda added that collaborations would follow, all with the idea of taking the Messi brand out of all the obvious areas.
This sporty twist with a larger lifestyle side will help open up to a younger – increasingly female – clientele, Hilfiger added, noting that the overarching idea is always “take.” [Messi’s on-pitch] Precision off the field and into the garments.”