CLIQUE WEAR: The Fila Bjorn Borg Collection: now in sportswear Valhalla
In the early seventies, at the Monte Carlo Masters, Fila CEO Enrico Franchey spotted a young Swedish player. He was good-looking, quiet, and equipped with a blistering two-handed backhand. Straightaway, Franchey knew that he had stumbled across the ideal poster boy. As the young man began his meteoric rise to the summit of world tennis, Franchey had a massive contract drawn up for him.
In 1975, Björn Borg signed with Fila, marking the start of an iconic collection that was the fruit of a collaboration between one of the most iconic sportswear brands of the period and the most iconic tennis player of all time, no less.
For ten years, the Fila Bj collections, designed by the brilliant Pier Luigi Rolando (praise be to the style gods) would traumatise an entire generation of connoisseurs. The collection was initially aimed at sportsmen and amateur tennis players, but that was not the clientele that would earn it iconic status.
At a time when class struggles abounded, Fila’s collections quickly established themselves on the streets, becoming must-have items on council estates on both sides of the Channel. Terrace boys and their French counterparts revered their high-quality fabrics and ultra-smart designs, straight out of Italian factories.
Out of the many Bj models produced over the years, there are two that I find particularly magnificent. The first is the Settanta MK1, the first jacket donned by the great Björn at Wimbledon. Produced in four dominant colours – red, blue, bright green and blue/sky blue – the jacket’s secondary cream tone gave it a distinguished air, elevating a simple tracksuit top way beyond the realms of sportswear. What is more, the unique make-up of its fabric – 25% wool and 75% acrylic – meant that it hung beautifully on the body, making this zip-up number an emblematic garment that allowed the wearer to stay chic in all circumstances.
The second essential piece was the Terrinda MK3. Released in 1982, it was part of the final Fila Bj collection. With an exclusive stand-up collar design and high-quality, peachy-soft fabric, it was hugely expensive, and instantly became a classic, coveted by every self-respecting rogue.
Like Adidas with Run DMC, or Le Coq Sportif with Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Fila made one of sportswear’s first incursions into the world of pop with the Terrinda MK3, which was worn on many occasions by Wham’s George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. This earned it the nickname “the Wham jacket” in every council estate in Britain, without in any way diminishing its popularity among the casuals, its loyal band of thuggish followers.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and, in 1986, Fila terminated its collaboration with Björn Borg, who had left the pro tennis circuit three years previously. And so an era came to a close. 1975-1986 was a golden age for sportswear, the likes of which we have never seen again since. A time when a number of Italian brands – Fila, of course, but also Tacchini, Ellesse and, to a lesser extent, Conte of Florence – ruled supreme, dictating trends by coming up with ultra-inventive designs that never stinted on quality, created by hugely talented designers. 1986 was also the year when John McEnroe, Tacchini’s own poster-boy, decided to put his career on hold. Coincidence? I don’t think so.