Thursday afternoon at the Mitchell & Ness store location at 12th & Chestnut in Center City, a unique, new series of gear was premiered to the limited public.
A festive atmosphere greeted members of the Sons of Ben and the media, where the hot-off-the-presses merchandise was debuted. The line incorporates both the team logo and the logo of their first and largest supporters’ group. The presentation was also attended by members of the Union front office, and MLS’ league office. The photos (courtesy of Trey Madara) show they come in the various colors traditionally associated with the two groups. The unique end product, however, was masterminded by Mitchell & Ness’ own designer.
‘How did this partnership come about?’, you might ask. "It was a conversation that Rachel (Lieber, from MLS Consumer Products & Licensing department) started having with Ami (Rivera, President of the Sons of Ben), they kind of noodled around the idea, and it all came together," said Maribeth Towers, Sr. VP of Consumer Products & Licensing for Major League Soccer. The league has an official apparel license with Adidas, so why would they feel the need to work with another maker? "I think Mitchell & Ness - they have a wide fan base in terms of the product. They’re a label that we’ve wanted to work with for a long time because of their reputation in the marketplace." And about the appeal for the store to be involved, Towers said, "They see this as an opportunity to move into a space that, to your point, is new for them and an audience that is very different. As you know (speaking to myself and Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com), there’s not a lot of crossover in our audience with other sports. So, I think they’ve been very excited about the partnership." "We are looking to expand our base, and obviously Adidas is a tremendously important partner of ours so we respect that, but we do need to branch out in all sorts of directions."
For the S.o.B. perspective, I spoke with Ami Rivera, the organization’s President. "Major League Soccer and Mitchell & Ness came to us with this idea. They had tested this out once before, and they said ‘we’d like to do a collection, a collaborative effort, and create a ‘Capsule Collection’. So what a cool opportunity; with a Philly-born organization, Mitchell & Ness, iconic in the world of sports, then you’ve got the Sons of Ben, and you’ve got the Philadelphia Union." Rivera explained that they sent a copious amount of images to M&N, and their designer boiled down the layouts to what he felt was most important, conceptually. "Concerning this collection, this is it. This is the only inception that we’ll have of it. That doesn’t mean the door is closed to doing anything in the future, but as of right now, we’re just focused on what we have here. And, we hope that we really have reached everybody with a piece that feels good to them, and that they enjoy having." To elaborate on the phrase used, "Capsule Collection," means that all of the shirts, hats, and scarves have been made. Once they are sold out, they will not be re-issued. It’s as if they were from a time capsule, commemorating a specific period of time.
Several players were also present at the event, dressed in the new gear. Ray Gaddis, Sebastien Le Toux, Taylor Washington, Keegan Rosenberry, and Maurice Edu were on hand showing off the new duds and spreading love for the all of the brands involved. Each player spoke of how the event is great for the fans who support them. Ray Gaddis noted that the symbol on the shirt he was wearing was a great showing of unity. Taylor Washington echoed that sentiment in saying that his brief experience with the organization is that it is all about unity. Rosenberry was impressed by the excitement in the room, but not surprised by it because of the support he’s felt in his inaugural season. Maurice Edu has a different perspective on it as he has been a Mitchell & Ness fan since before he played for Union. He noted that they’ve had him in privately before in addition to his many visits, and it’s great that his team and it’s great fans are getting more exposure from a brand he enjoys. The afternoon was the fitting confluence of the team’s members, supporters, and executives, exhibiting a new chapter in it’s young apparel history.