‘Energy and electricity’: Haider Ackermann and Fila unite in Manchester

The city’s subcultures inspired the unexpected collaboration between Haider Ackermann and historic sportswear brand Fila

Haider Ackermann + Fila runway finale
Haider Ackermann + Fila
(Image credit: Courtesy of Fila)

‘Electricity, energy… stripping down to speed forward,’ began the collection notes for Haider Ackermann’s collaboration with Italy-founded sportswear brand Fila, shown in Manchester this past Thursday. Presented in the vast Mayfield Depot – best known for hosting The Warehouse Project, a series of club nights which takes place yearly – the collection saw Colombia-born Ackermann, who was returning to the runway after a two-year hiatus, meld his expressive approach to colour and line with the bold sportswear codes of Fila. 

Shown on a stark-white catwalk which ran the length of the otherwise industrial space, the collection itself – officially titled Haider Ackermann + Fila – began with a consideration of British youth cultures, and what Ackermann called ‘the neatness and visual punch’ he associated with their various dress codes. The designer said he was particularly drawn to the northern city of Manchester for its historic links with sport, music and nightlife, and the subcultures each has spawned. The cult Ben Kelly-designed Haçienda nightclub – which first opened in the northern city in the 1980s – was one such reference, its famed hazard-striped columns evoked in the collection’s use of luminous colour and graphic motifs (members of New Order, early investors in the club, attended Ackermann’s post-show dinner). 

Haider Ackermann + Fila in Manchester

Model on runway wearing white sporty outfit

Haider Ackermann + Fila

(Image credit: Courtesy of Fila)

The collection refined what Ackermann called the ‘core elements of the sports wardrobe’ – among them, tracksuits, leggings and tennis shorts, as well as swimming trunks and athletic body suits – seeing clean, body-contouring silhouettes arrive in an ‘electric glow’ of colour, from optic white to acidic shades of pink, blue, green and yellow. ‘Flowing on or over the body, or taut and revealing,’ said the collection notes of the various pieces, which placed particular focus on physicality. ‘The body, either revealed or just felt, is the real protagonist, delivering a message of empowerment and individuality’. Elsewhere, a graphic logo created for the collaboration looped around the necks of sleek all-in-ones, or on the back of billowing technical parka jackets, while technical slippers and running-inspired sneakers ‘add velocity’. 

Swedish tennis player Björn Borg, who memorably wore a Fila striped polo shirt during his historic Grand Slam runs in the 1970s, was another reference point for Ackermann. Abbreviated checkered shorts, coloured polo shirts, and requisite headband provided a contemporary riff on one of sportswear’s most memorable looks. ‘He is a reference, his elegance and nobility,’ Ackermann said backstage. ‘That’s what I was reaching for, to find nobility, strength and elegance.’

Woman on white runway in bodysuit

Haider Ackermann + Fila

(Image credit: Courtesy of Fila)

Haider Ackermann + Fila marks the latest chapter in a number of collaborative projects undertaken by Fila in recent years, notably with Glenn Martens’ Y/Project and London-based designer Roksanda Ilinčić. The choices are often unexpected for a sportswear label – part of the reason Ackermann says he originally agreed to take part in the project. ‘Unknown things make my heart beat faster… so I willingly took on the challenge,’ he said after the announcement of the collaboration in September. ‘I believe in the power of the unexpected.’

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Two models on runway in shorts, polo shirts and headbands

Haider Ackermann + Fila

(Image credit: Courtesy of Fila)
Fashion Features Editor

Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.