At the Champion x Sonny’s Pizza block party. All photography: courtesy of Champion.

AFTER MONTHS OF rain and endless grey skies, France’s annual Fête de la Musique, which is held each year on the summer solstice, arrives. Although rain fell this morning, by late afternoon, as I walk towards the Champion showroom to meet Jay Escobara, Global Vice President of Design at the global sportswear brand, the sky unexpectedly and miraculously clears. It’s there, on Rue Daniella Casanova that I, vividly and indulgently, pause to tilt my face towards that wild sun, intoxicated by the thought that summer has finally arrived, and that Paris will finally begin its descent towards an evening – and season – of wonder, possibility and madness.

“At Champion, we’re like that friend who knows exactly who they are. We don’t need to brag, or be too flashy,” Escobara tells me as we walk through the Champion showroom. As he begins talking about the Champion spring/summer 2025 Index and Archives collection, and the research trip he took through America’s Southwest, drawing influence from Wim Wender’s iconic film Paris, Texas, he pauses to admire the stitching detail on a jacket; the faded print on an archival jumper. He speaks with a passion and enthusiasm for craftsmanship and design that feels appropriate. After all, Champion is a brand that has endured for more than 100 years, that has been associated with the likes of Wu Tang Clan, Michael Jordan, Rihanna and The Kardashians, that has such deep ties to hip-hop, punk, art and sport it is impossible to think of popular culture without it. But it’s Escobara’s approach to storytelling and the way he connects Champion’s past to their evolving present that sticks with me the most. 

Archival pieces in the Champion showroom.
Champion Global Vice President of Design Jay Escobara inspects a bomber jacket from the new collection.

“Our Made in Japan and Made in the USA collections, for example, are still true to archival patents,” he says. “Champion has such a rich history, which means we are able to pay respect to where we have come from, while forging ahead to create something new.” 

And forge ahead it has. As we continue walking through the showroom, I find myself wowed by the sheer scale of the Champion vision. In one room, complete with floor tape that transforms the space into something between a gallery and a basketball court, is a series of visual case studies that, as Escobara explains, attempt to bridge the gap between garment and athlete, while exploring the relationship between the human body and the tools that enable its potential. In another, is the brand’s collaboration with Alaska Alaska, the research-based design and creative studio launched by Virgil Abloh. I look around, wildly engaged. To my left is a Champion T-shirt half-submerged and slowly transforming inside a glass vat of blue dye; to my right, a replica archival athletic Champion sweatshirt and pants, hand-painted and suspended from the ceiling. On the back wall is a black and white video of Olympic runners wearing Champion athletic wear, achieving excellence at track and field.

Inside Champion’s Paris showroom are a series of visual case studies that “attempt to bridge the gap between garment and athlete, while exploring the relationship between the human body and the tools that enable its potential”.
A replica archival athletic Champion sweatshirt and pants, hand-painted and suspended from the ceiling.

In another darkly lit room, complete with LED lighting, we look at the Champion Black Edition: a collection of subtle tailoring, minimal performance, on-the-go commuter fashion made from lightweight performance fabrics that have been a mainstay in Japan and China over the past five years. 

“We shot this a couple of weeks ago in Shinjuku, Japan,” Esobara says, inviting me to touch one of the shirts. “It is something we have a lot of hope and pride for.” The shirt is beautiful, and I briefly imagine myself living in Japan, changing my name and living another life entirely. “Last season, we managed to stock the Champion Black Edition at Dover Street Market Ginza, and it really opened doors. Almost like a permission slip. We still celebrate the mashup of modern and vintage aesthetics, but now we’re also viewed as something elevated.”

Inside the Champion x Sonny’s Pizza block party.

Before I know it, hours in the Champion showroom have passed by. I drink a glass of sparkling water, then a beer. Then, we make our way to the Champion x Sonny’s Pizza block party, two institutions hailing from New York, and the first of many Champion takeovers during Fête de la Musique. We observe, and then join, the thousands of other strangers who have begun to embrace, dance and celebrate with one another in the golden glory of the Parisian summer sun. On the decks were world-renowned DJs like Clean P, Groovyhuh, Tysha Cee, and, iconically, The Alchemist,. Children dance. I watch a couple eat the same slice of pizza; they pause to kiss when finished, Lady and the Tramp style.

At a certain point, we rode bikes over to the Love Will Make You Dance event presented by Awake, powered by Champion at Le Mondial, and the evening, as we danced to impressive sets by Goya Gumbani, Denisha Anderson, Sithgod, and Victory Lap, passed full of spirit and connection and a mutual appreciation for the arts. However, it isn’t until later, after stumbling my way out of the Champion x Grailed x Boiler Room party, a little delirious and laughing with new friends whose names I cannot remember, that I notice an anonymous passerby wearing a piece from Champion’s newly released RAVEWEAR collection. I recall what Escobara told me as we parted ways: that without community, we have nothing. 

Then, as I make my way home, I think about cult author Frederick Exley, and a certain line he wrote in his seminal work A Fan’s Notes: “I longed for a sense of purpose, a direction to my life that would give me a sense of fulfilment and contentment.” In the context of Champion, its community, vision and success, Exley’s sentiment makes profound sense. 

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