“We were continually getting asked, ‘when are you bringing back the flags?’ It was non-stop. ‘Don't you do the flag shirts anymore? I wish you'd bring them back,” he says. “We felt the time was right to bring the flags back, especially with vintage retro being so hot right now.”
When Costco approached Mondetta about coming up with a new program this summer for its chain of warehouse retail outlets across Canada, the decision was easy. The flags were dusted off and their look was updated. Gone were the white T-shirts and sweatshirts, replaced by hoodies and zippered sweat tops.
The countries featured are Canada, the US, England, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Japan and Germany. Lavilla says the criteria for selection this time around included being a “must-have,” such as Canada, a "fun-have," such as Norway, and whether the country fields a competitive squad at the Winter Olympics. The third criterion, unfortunately, ruled out Brazil, one of the most popular flags during the world concept’s first incarnation.
Further cementing Mondetta’s decision was the fact that two major international sporting events, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the World Cup of Soccer in South Africa, were around the corner. Actual flags will figure prominently at both competitions, of course, particularly during medal ceremonies and in the stands.
Mondetta has taken its new world concept on the road this summer and fall, doing two-week blitzes in two Costco locations at a time. Once the 14 days are done, the clothes are gone and they’re off to the next pair of stores. A limited run was designed to create an exclusivity buzz about the brand, Lavilla says.
But instead of displaying the clothes on shelves and on tables, as Costco typically does, Mondetta was able to set up an Olympic-style podium to promote the brand featuring the phrase "Show your pride in 2010."
He is quick to note that Mondetta is not an official Olympic sponsor and therefore has to be careful not to use particular images or words with its in-store displays. (Hudson’s Bay Co. is the official outfitter of Canada’s athletes.)
Mondetta is, however, the official clothing supplier to the Canadian Curling Association. As “the roaring game” is Canada’s unofficial national pastime, games featuring both the men’s and women’s teams figure to be among the hottest tickets in town. The players won’t be permitted to wear Mondetta gear during the opening ceremonies or if they make it to the medal podium but they can wear it when they’re on the ice.
Lavilla says the massive audiences for what will be two of the biggest sporting events of all time have the company thinking about keeping the flags in the marketplace longer term and expanding their retail distribution.
“It makes great sense to roll with it,” he says.
Lavilla says Mondetta wants to be known as a brand that speaks out for all of the countries of the world and one that is known for the spirit of unification and promoting global unity.
“We’re very proud to be Canadian but we want to promote the flags of all countries. I don’t think there is a brand like it out there. We think we invented the world flag concept,” he says.
Indeed, other sportswear companies have offered country themes with a track jacket, for example, but they’ve had the countries’ names written across the front, not the flag, Lavilla says.
“We feel flags are beautiful. They arouse this special kind of interest. The flags represent the people, too. We're the only company that puts it bold and big on the front of the clothes, that's our own thing. We want to keep being known for that,” he says.
Lavilla says the company’s brain trust wasn’t worried about being labeled a one-trick pony with the flag-based clothing.
“(In the ’80s), we didn’t have a chance to worry about that. We were riding the high. Like all things, they cool off, sometimes they really cool off. The company rode out that concept for a long time. We got a lot of mileage out of it and we built a lot of brand awareness. We had to reinvent ourselves and we did,” he says.