Although considered synonymous, Kappa and Robe di Kappa are two distinct brands, which are positioned in two segments of the market, in clothing, accessories and footwear are very different from each other. Both brands are owned by the BasicNet Group of Turin.
Kappa is a brand of clothing, accessories and footwear for sports, with active-wear collections ranging from football to skiing, from snowboarding to golf, from rugby to fencing, through lines dedicated to widespread sports activities, which embrace the whole area of indoor and outdoor training.
Today Kappa sponsors over a hundred of the most important football and sports federations in the world. At the last PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, Kappa dressed all the Italian athletes competing: both the Winter Sports Federation and the Ice Sport Federation, as well as the entire South Korean Ski Federation. Kappa is also a sponsor of fencing, rowing, golf, motorcycling, judo, karate, free fight and martial arts.
Alongside the technical collections, in recent years Kappa has conquered a large share of the fashion market, in the streetwear segment, thanks to two significantly urban lines: Kappa Authentic and Kappa Kontroll. It is in this segment that collaborations and co-branding is carried out with the great international names of streetwear, including the Russian Gosha Rubchinskiy, Argentine Marcelo Burlon, Parisian collective Faith Connexion, Italian designer Danilo Paura; with the South Korean fashion brand Charm’s and with big fashion retailers like Barneys New York and Opening Ceremony.
Today, Kappa brand products are present in over 120 markets worldwide, on 5 continents, with aggregate sales exceeding one billion dollars a year and more than 60 million pieces sold.
Kappa’s story begins in 1956, when a flawed stock of “Aquila” socks – a brand owned by the then Maglificio Calzificio Torinese (MCT), a company founded in 1916 by Abramo Vitale – ends up by mistake on the market. The stores return the goods and the MCT, to restore credibility of the product, label the new productions with the initials “K” and the words “Kontroll”: a word from the German sound to strengthen the concept of certified quality in the consumer. The operation succeeds to perfection. From that moment on, customers order “socks with K” exclusively. In short, the old word “Aquila” is abandoned and, in the common dictionary, Kappa becomes a brand even before it is officially registered. By now in the second half of the fifties, Kappa is known as an Italian leader in the field of socks and underwear.
At the end of the Sixties, from the principal brand, Robe di Kappa was born, no longer dedicated to underwear but to casual wear. In 1978, Kappa returned to the limelight as the name of the new technical-sports division of Robe di Kappa: initially Robe di Kappa Sport, immediately became Kappa Sport, and soon simplified to Kappa, in a very short time it returned to be in all respects a brand in itself.
In 1979, first in Italy, Kappa sponsored a football team: Juventus. The following year, became a technical sponsor of the American National Athletics Track (USA Track & Field), which was presented at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and that of Seoul 1988 with the “Omini logo” on all race uniforms. This is how the famous Banda was born: the vertical repetition logo tape, to this day the iconic mark of the brand.
The “Gang with the Little Men” by Kappa becomes famous worldwide thanks to the Olympic gold medals of athletes such as Carl Lewis and Edwin Moses (Los Angeles ’84) and the incredible performance of the charming sprinter Florence Griffith (Seoul ’88).
It is certainly from the graphic features of the logo that creates the confusion between the Kappa and Robe di Kappa brands, although the latter – unlike the first one – is distributed almost exclusively in the Italian market. In fact, both brands are represented by the silhouette of a boy and a girl sitting on the ground, leaning back to back with their legs bent. Smaller and more discreet on Robe di Kappa brand garments; larger and “exploded” on the Kappa collections. In both cases, it is the only logo in the clothing industry that represents a human figure, instead of an animal or a graphic sign. Apart from a single, albeit partial, exception: the Ralph Lauren logo, which depicts a horse with a Polo player.
After years of commercial success, in 1994 Maglificio Calzificio Torinese failed following the premature death of its managing director Maurizio Vitale, great grandson of the founder Abraham. It is the Turin entrepreneur Marco Boglione who won the assets of the MCT at the bankruptcy auction. Among these, its three brands: Kappa, Robe di Kappa and Jesus Jeans.
Marco Boglione changed the name of MCT to BasicNet and revolutionized the business model, replacing the previous vertical organization with a network business model, entirely based on the Internet. And successfully relaunched the acquired brands on the global market: first of all, Kappa.